Beware of extortion/fraud attempts targeting international students

Issue date: 12 June 2018


We've been made aware that a number of international students in the UK have recently fallen victim to extortion attempts. Extortion is when someone tries to get something from you (especially money), through force or threats.

The details we have are as follows, although some aspects may vary:

  • The student is contacted by someone claiming to represent the police (or other official body) from their home country. They have information about the student and are very convincing.
  • They tell the student that they are suspected of a money laundering crime and that they and their family are at risk.
  • They are told not to alert British police.
  • They are asked for money (sometimes many thousands of pounds) to make sure that they and their family are safe.
  • They're encouraged to borrow money to pay the supposed debt and receive constant phone calls to manipulate them into paying the money.

What you should do if you think you've been a victim of an extortion attempt

If you think you've been a victim of an extortion attempt, please don't be afraid to seek support. You have done nothing wrong. Call the Police on 101 and they will be able to help you.

We are also here to support you – for example if you are in financial crisis, if your assessments have been affected or you need wellbeing support. Call our Information Points on 0117 32 85678 and they'll put you in touch with the right people.

You can also contact The Students' Union Advice Centre for independent and confidential advice.

How to stay safe

Please remain vigilant – scams like these are not uncommon. Be wary of any phone calls, texts, emails or instant messages that ask you for your personal or financial details. The criminals behind extortion attempts are very convincing and can make their messages look or sound official – but they're not.

Do not reply to or engage with any message where the person is asking you for personal details or money. If you're on the phone, hang up.

If you need to, you can go to the organisation's official website and contact them through the phone number listed to check whether the request was genuine. It's always better to double-check.

You can forward any suspicious emails that you receive to your UWE Bristol email account to spamtrap@uwe.ac.uk and our IT team will investigate. Once you've done that, delete the email from your inbox.

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