International students across the UK are being targeted by criminals demanding payment of thousands of pounds, York Vision has learned.
Scammers have obtained personal information about students with Tier 4 visas, including full names, their passport numbers and their post codes.
The crafty crooks ring up the students and use the information to try and prove they are from the Home Office.
The frauds then tell shocked students that they owe the government as much as £1500 for an “immigration service.”
The callers threaten victims with arrest if payment is not made quickly.
Students who come from outside the EU may be at risk at every university in the country.
A briefing from the Home Office, sent to the uni and seen by York Vision says: “Students who have been targeted have reported the fraudsters become increasingly insistent and verbally aggressive, resulting in [students] feeling coerced into making payment.”
It has been confirmed the sophisticated scammers can even fake their caller ID, so the number which shows up on students’ phones matches the number on the Home Office website.
The Home Office have not yet replied to multiple requests for comment.
They were asked over a week ago to explain how sensitive data got into the hands of scammers. On Friday, five days on from York Vision initally asking for their response, a spokesman said he was still “looking into it.”
Multiple students in the UK have fallen victim to the scam. Peter Quinn, director of student support, said: “We need to get the message out to them all.”
Quinn said the uni had emailed all students with a Tier 4 visa to make them aware of the scam. But he admitted: “We can’t stop this affecting students per se but in making students aware we can minimise the impact.”
YUSU international officer Roberto Avelar said: “It’s a shame that International Students in particular are being targeted.”
He said the scam was “quite clever” because “most international students don’t remember off the top of their head all of the things we are meant to pay before coming to the UK.”
The personal details could have been acquired through phishing attacks on students’ emails.
In an email to societies a YUSU staff member said: “There are an increasing number of phishing emails going round at the moment.” They said there was a “major phishing attempt” in March this year.
The university said it was doing everything it could to stop York students falling victim. A spokesperson said: “We are aware of the scam but to our knowledge no York students have been affected.
“The International Student Support team have contacted all students with a Tier 4 visa to offer advice and support.”