Friends Against Scams

Durham students warned of online scams

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Friends Against Scams is a national initiative which is being promoted locally by Durham County Council’s Trading Standards Team.

They aim to protect students, the public and businesses from scams and frauds by “empowering communities to ‘Take a Stand Against Scams’.”

University students can often be targeted by various scams aimed at taking their money or their identity – leaving them open to fraud and credit blacklisting.

We would urge all Durham students to become a Friend Against Scams

Craig Hudson, Trading Standards Manager, with Durham County Council told Palatinate, “We want students to enjoy their time in Durham and not fall victim to increasingly sophisticated scams which target us all seeking to take our cash.”

“We would urge all Durham University students to take time to learn about scams and how to protect themselves against losing money, by becoming a Friend Against Scams.”

The Friends Against Scams campaign aims to recruit 1 Million Friends by the year 2020, to spread the message and protect people from becoming a victim.

This involves attending a short awareness session in person or completing the online training to become better informed of what to look out for and how to stay protected.

Scams affect millions of lives across the UK and can often leave victims feeling shame and social isolation as a result. Scams come in a multitude of forms and can easily go under the radar.

Common scams are: Bogus texts, e-mails, phone calls, and fake weblinks, mass mailing or even a knock at the door, potentially offering repairs. They purport to be from your bank, or common online providers that you regularly deal with in an attempt to obtain your personal and financial details.

Online gamers can also be at risk of revealing personal details and being defrauded.

Students living away from home for the first time can be even more vulnerable to scams

Student-specific scams encompass:

  • The Student Loan scam – When spear-phishing e-mails, which claim to come from the Student Loans Company, seek your password and financial details to verify your accounts and ensure that student loans arrive on time.
  • The Money Mule – Which appears as an easy way to earn some extra cash. The victim is asked to route payments through their personal account and get paid a commission. However, this can be money laundering on behalf of criminals and can be a serious offence.
  • The “Freshers Friend” – This is a form of social engineering. Fraudsters contact you via social media to gain your trust. Once befriended, they will seek your money for fake events, obtain your date of birth or other security information to commit fraud using your personal details.

Chanel Randles, a third year Durham University student, who is working on the County Durham project as an Intern with the Council added: “For many students, it is their first time independently living away from home, and this can make us even more vulnerable to being victims of scams.”

“It is important we all educate ourselves on the types of scams out there and the signs that something is a scam. We must be vigilant to ensure we do not become victims.”

Friends Against Scams encourage the community to spread the word with family and friends so they aren’t caught off guard, falling victim to fraud.

As general advice, they encourage you to be careful about what you share online, including: your date of birth, phone numbers and photographs. These can all be used by scammers to build a profile of you and gain access to your passwords and accounts.

It’s encouraged to regularly check security settings and change passwords.

Students can become a part of the movement here:

https://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk/elearning/durham

If you think you have been a victim of a fraud, you can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

Photography: Friends Against Scams

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