You may receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from an official body, government agency or an organisation you’re associated with, asking for your details. Even though many scammers increasingly use email and various digital means for scams, such phone calls are still common.
This article covers the usual types of fraudulent phone calls, or ‘vishing’, and how to spot them.
Phone call claiming to be from authorities outside the UK
A recent scam has emerged which has mainly targeted Chinese students in the UK.
- The victim receives a call from the fraudster who claims to be from one of a number of official-sounding organisations, such as the Chinese Embassy, Immigration or Customs Services, the Chinese Police, or Royal Mail.
- They claim that they are investigating international crimes and require the victim to transfer large sums of money to an account in China to be checked.
If you think you’ve been targeted by this scam, please report it. Find out how you can get support in our article I think I've been targeted by a scam, what should I do?
Phone call claiming to be from the UKVI asking for money
This is not a genuine phone call.
Please don’t give the caller any money or any of your bank details. The UKVI/Home Office do not issue financial penalties over the telephone, so this communication is almost certainly a fraud or scam.
How to respond:
- Even if the caller seems to know some of your personal information, avoid confirming whether the information they have is correct.
- Try not to give them any other details about yourself.
- If you feel confident to do so, you can inform the caller that you know they are behaving fraudulently and that you will report it to the police or Home Office, or you can simply end the call.
How to check authenticity:
You can check the authenticity of any communication you’re concerned about by contacting the Advice & Guidance team. The team will then be able to share information with all students via webpages and social media to warn them about any recent scams.
UKCISA has information dedicated to Fraud and scams on their website, which is worth checking for details of current trends in fraud and scams affecting international students. You can also report the matter online to Action Fraud.
Phone call claiming to be from a government department about a tax or fine
What is the call like?
You are called by someone claiming to be from a government department or agency working on their behalf. They inform you that you have not paid a fee which you need to pay now to avoid prosecution; examples have been immigration tax (which does not exist), visa tax or a health fee.
Quite quickly their language is threatening, warning that if you do not pay a fine over the phone you will be arrested, have your visa cancelled or face further financial penalties.
They will try to keep you on the phone and reconfirm their credentials by referencing official bodies such as the Home Office and the Royal Courts of Justice.
Reality vs scam
This is a scam. In the rare situation where someone may be fined by the UK Government this will be done so in an official capacity in writing, where you would call in and pay over the phone and to appeal the fine.
Even if the scammer claims to be from your home country, it is very unlikely that any official government agency would contact you in this manner and request payment over the phone.
How to respond:
- You should refuse to pay but offer to take their information to look into the matter and call back.
- If they refuse to give this to you then you know that they are a scammer; you should hang up and block their number.
If they do give you information provide this to Action Fraud when you contact them for advice about the call.
No official agency would refuse to provide you with full details of who they are, why you are being contacted and how to check the legitimacy of their claim, as well as how to appeal a decision.
If you need help, advice, and support in the university because you have been targeted by a scam or have been the victim of a scam contact Advice & Guidance.
Phone call claiming to be from your bank asking for information
Be wary of unsolicited calls claiming to be from your bank.
Important to know: No bank will ever ask you to share your banking details like your PIN number or password, or indeed call asking you to confirm your address details or date of birth.
Scammers often impersonate your bank and can even give you your background information gathered from social media websites or data breaches to make the phone call more convincing.
How to respond:
- Try not answer their questions to confirm details they’re giving you or give them further information.
- There is no harm in ending a call if you are suspicious that you are being scammed.
- Visit your bank’s website to find their phone number and call back to ask if you were contacted previously as they will have a record of this.
Banking scams are very common, and can happen by phone, text, or email.
There are some useful resources where you can learn more about banking scams and what to look out for:
Phone call claiming to have detected a fault with your laptop
This is where technical support impersonators claim they have detected a fault with your laptop and they’re seeking remote access to fix the problem.
They may suggest that you need to buy a piece of software straightaway to solve the problem.
Such calls are unlikely to be legitimate, so if you are unsure of a caller’s credibility, then you should hang up. Consider whether you have any association with the organisation calling you; have you reached out to them for support?
While at university, if you’re experiencing technical difficulties with your laptop, you’re best to contact King’s Service Desk for help.
Check out our videos: Understanding & Avoiding Scams
View it here or at King’s Media: Understanding & Avoiding Scams Part 1: What is a Scam?
View it here or at King’s Media: Understanding & Avoiding Scams Part 2: Known Student Scams
Support & information if you’re targeted by a scam or fraud
If you think you have been targeted by a scam or fraud and need information, advice or support, please don’t hesitate to contact the Advice & Guidance team.
We also recommend reading I think I've been targeted by a scam, what should I do?
Please also contact Action Fraud to help prevent this happening to others.
Some further resources to help you: