Police have warned students about a suspected mobile phone fraud which is being targeted at university students across the United Kingdom.
North Yorkshire Police used Twitter to make both freshers and returning students aware of their concerns by retweeting a statement from the Metropolitan Police regarding the situation after the National Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) launched an investigation into events.
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) August 20, 2014
The NMPCU website states that students from universities across the country are being offered a financial incentive to take up a mobile phone contract, from which a private company then reaps the benefit.
It is believed that any student involved is given a smart phone of significant monetary value on a long-term contract with a mobile network. The mobile handset and SIM Card are then sent to the private company, with the student receiving a small sum of money and the promise of a financial incentive on a monthly basis.
However, the NMPCU are concerned that the students involved not only get themselves into large amounts of debt, but may also have divulged details concerning their bank accounts, financial matters and personal information. This leaves them at risk of becoming victims of identity fraud.
In order to prevent further students from becoming caught up in the scam, the NMPCU have passed details on to universities across the United Kingdom to make students aware of the threat, and advise them to keep away from any such offer which comes their way.
A spokesperson from the University told Nouse: “[We are] aware of this particular fraud but, so far, no students have reported being affected by it. If any student is affected by this or similar scams, they should contact the Student Support Hub for advice.”
Mobile phone networks have also been alerted to support the ongoing investigation and offer help to students that have been affected by the situation.
DI Louise Shea, who is part of the NMPCU and is leading the investigation into events, issued a statement via the NMPCU’s website, saying: “The NMPCU is working closely with the major UK mobile phone networks and universities affected in this large-scale and complex investigation.
“We understand that this matter will be of considerable concern to the students and family members affected as they will be accruing significant debts. We are committed to ensuring that those engaged in fraudulent activity do not escape justice.
“We urge any students that have been affected by this to come forward to assist the investigation and prevent this happening to anyone else.”
It has been reported by local media that a 22 year old man has been arrested in Surrey in connection with the scam, along with 22 other individuals following raids across the South East. One man was arrested in the Reigate & Banstead area of the county, whilst others in West London and West Sussex have also been arrested. Of the 23 people arrested, 20 are men and three are women, aged between 19 and 29. All 23 of those arrested have been bailed to dates between November of this year and February of next, pending further investigations into events.
Students that have been affected by the suspected fraud have been advised to protect themselves by informing their bank or building society of the situation as soon as possible, change passwords to online accounts and encourage family members to do the same.
Those affected are also advised to get a copy of their credit report and check it for any suspicious activity. Furthermore, all students are advised to avoid becoming victims themselves by taking a series of steps to protect themselves. These include not divulging passwords or personal data to anyone, keeping a close eye on bank accounts, etc. and changing passwords on a regular basis.
Anyone who fears they may have been affected by this scam is advised to email a completed NMPCU pro-forma to the NMPCU. Any further advice on how to avoid falling foul of fraud can be sought by speaking to Action Fraud on 03001232040.
More information can also be found on the NMPCU website.