The police National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) is warning students to stay vigilant about a suspected mobile phone fraud targeting students at universities across the UK.
Students have been offered cash incentives to entice them into registering for personal mobile phone contracts, which are then used for the benefit of a private company.
Invariably the student receives a high value smartphone on a lengthy network contract, but then sends on the phone and SIM card to the private company for a small cash incentive and the promise of a modest monthly income. However, the students involved are now running up significant debts.
NMPCU believes that students may have divulged details about their bank accounts, credit or debit cards and personal circumstances, making them susceptible to identity fraud.
The major UK mobile phone networks and other industry partners have been made aware of the NMPCU investigation to best support the affected students.
If you have been affected, you can take the following steps to protect yourself:
- Inform your bank or building society as soon as possible.
- Change financial and email account passwords and security questions.
- Take particular care to close any compromised accounts.
- Ensure that other family members don’t use account passwords such as your mother’s maiden name, as these should also be changed.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report. This will identify searches conducted by a lender, date of search, type of application and which credit accounts are set up in your name. You can contact any one of the three credit reference agencies and receive support in resolving credit report problems caused by identity fraud: www.callcredit.co.uk, www.equifax.co.uk, www.experian.co.uk.
- Look at your credit report closely. If you find entries from organisations you don’t normally deal with, contact them immediately.
Students can avoid falling victim to fraud as follows:
- Never divulge private information data in response to a personal approach, email, text, letter or phone call unless you are certain that the request is from a reliable source.
- Check your statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the bank, financial or mobile service provider concerned.
- The three credit reference agencies offer a credit report checking service to alert you to any key changes on your credit file that could indicate potential fraudulent activity: www.callcredit.co.uk, www.equifax.co.uk, www.experian.co.uk.
- Don’t throw away entire bills, receipts, credit-card or debit-card slips, bank statements or even unwanted post in your name. Destroy unwanted documents, preferably by using a shredder.
- Keep your personal documents in a safe place, preferably in a locked drawer or cabinet at home.
- Change passwords regularly.
If you have been affected by this, they should email the NMPCU on TPHQ@met.pnn.police.uk providing your contact details, university and brief details of the issue.
For advice about protecting yourself from a fraud of this kind, students can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.