The Risks of Relying on Forums, 'friends' or hearsay for immigration advice
We have noted that there is a lot of undue concerns leading to unneccessary requests for letters about vacations. This is usually because:
- Someone has heard about someone facing difficulties at the border - you can carry a certificate of enrolment in your hand luggage and other evidence that you are still a student e.g. a copy of your exam timetable
- A 'friend' said that they should do this - people may try to help but each case is individual
- You read it on a forum - forums are full of bad advice from people who have no immigration experience, are seeking to create business for their company, or are basing it on their own experience. Please check with the team rather than rely on forums.
We appreciate that the immigration rules are not straightforward, but if you rely on the three methods of obtaining advice above, you are more likely to complicate matters.
Frauds Targeting International Students
There are a number of fraudulent schemes in circulation targetting international students. Most claim to the Home Office, but we have become aware that there is a new one claiming to be HM Revenue and Customs. If you are ever unsure, please contact the Student Advice and Engagement Team first before paying any money or sending through personal document.
This is aimed at Chinese students. You may get a phone call from a UK mobile number claiming that you have a case against you for money laundering at home in China.
You will then be provided with a Chinese phone number to contact. When you speak to the person they will give you a case ID number and details of website to log into. The website shows a fake copy of a legal charge against you and a photograph of you. In the case we were aware, this was the person's photograph from their National ID card.
You will be asked to provide the details of your bank account and any credit card details to pay a fine. Do not provide any of these details as the aim is to take money from your account. We are aware that one student has had £7,000 taken by the fraudsters but others have had more taken.
Another London university has been affected by a potential money laundering scam where an email appears to be sent from a university email address offering an opportuntity to work as a book keeper for a Chinese art firm paying £200 per week. We strongly recommend that you do not respond to this email as you may become a victm of a money laundering scam.
A fraud against students has appeared but we are unsure if this is targeting international students only. You may be contacted by someone claiming to be from LSE saying that you have cheated on your degree and that your degree will be withdrawn if you do not take action within five days. The number is a phone number starting 01923, although this may be re-directed from a personal phone number as part of the scam.
LSE would not contact you in this way with regards to an allegation of cheating. You will be contacted in writing prior to the award of your degree and we would not ask for any money.
This is an attempt to get international students to pay the fraudsters. If you ever receive any calls you are unsure of regarding paying money or your immigration status, let us know. This fraud usually targets Chinese nationals.
- A student is contacted by someone claiming to represent the police or another official body from the student's home country - they have personal details and are very convincing.
- They tell the student that they are suspected of a significant money laundering crime and their family are at risk - if they cannot afford the amount they are encouraged to borrow money or ask their family to send them more money.
- They are told not to alert the British Police.
- They are asked for money to make sure that they and their family are safe and not dishonoured.
- They are told not to speak to friends and receive constant phone calls.
- If you receive a phone call, do not pay any money. Speak to the Student Advice and Engagement Management Team and alert the UK police by completing an Action Fraud form. LSE will support you if you are contacted.
This scan usually targets Indian nationals and takes place across the world. It is not limited to Student visa holders. A person phones claiming to be from the Home Office and asking for money. Unfortunately, the majority of the cases are with Indian students and it is not solely a UK issue.
- The caller may appear convincing because they may have some limited information about you;
- They may give you their name and telephone number to convince you they are genuine - the number they provide is an official Home Office number, but this is part of the fraud;
- They will advise you to turn of your wifi and any access to the internet on your phone - this is so you are not able to do any research whilst on the call;
- They usually say there is a serious problem with your immigration status and that you need to pay a fine because you have not completed a form correctly;
- They will usually ask you to pay the fine in cash using Western Union - the amount varies but some students have been asked to pay up to £3000;
- If you pay the money, they are likely to find additional reasons for you to pay extra - for example they may say that your issue with the UKVI is resolved but their checks mean that you now need to pay the embassy of your home country. They will be very persistent and sometimes threatening if they believe that they will be able to obtain more money from you.
How to respond:
- Do not give the caller any personal information and do not confirm any information they have is correct;
- Do not make any payment - the Home Office does not issue financial penalties over the phone;
- You may wish to tell the caller you are aware the call is fraudulent and that you will report it to the Police or you may just wish to hang up;
- Report the incident to the Student Advice and Engagement Management Team and online at Action Fraud. You can also report this to the Police if you wish.
- If you have any concerns about your immigration status, we can check this for you.