Mobile phone scam cons students out of £30k

Students are being lured in with the promise of extra money to help them through university. Picture: Jane Barlow
Students are being lured in with the promise of extra money to help them through university. Picture: Jane Barlow
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STUDENTS are being warned against a mobile phone scam which has seen some victims conned out of £30,000.

The concerning trend involves students being contacted by fraudsters who ask if they would like to earn some extra money while at university.

They are lured into taking out a mobile phone contract in their name, with the incentive that they will get a commission on each monthly bill for setting up the contract.

But after several months the payments and commission are stopped – and the student is left with a mobile phone bill run up by the scammers.

It is feared the con artists are targeting cash-stapped students across the UK, and Vodafone is urging students in the Capital to be vigilant.

Some victims have been asked for a long list of personal information, which is then sold on to other criminal groups who use it to take out loans and credit cards.

The elaborate con means any debts are registered against the student’s home address, leaving them to deal with debt collection agencies.

The national Mobile Phone Crime Unit has launched a probe into the fraudulent scheme, which is costing students thousands of pounds, risking their long-term credit rating and a criminal record.

On average, each claim is around £5000 and on average six contracts are being taken out against one student’s details – amounting to a debt of £30,000 per person.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said: “While students believe that they are entering into something illegitimate, they don’t foresee the long-term debt they will be responsible for. Vodafone wants to raise awareness of this scam so students are more aware of mobile phone fraud. Vodafone and other operators are consulting with the police on how to better protect students.”

Linda Porter, senior investigations manager at Vodafone UK, urged students not to be blinded by an offer that initially sounds “too good to be true”.

She said: “Our advice to all students approached either on Facebook, in person, on e-mail or through a friend with this seemingly beneficial offer is to think sensibly. You are being asked to take out a phone contract in your name, hand over lots of personal data and likely end up massively in debt. Can you really trust these people?

“If you have already agreed to take out a phone contract for the fraudsters, call Action Fraud immediately and report the matter, and stop doing anything on their behalf.

“Ask your parents to open and review any unsolicited/unknown bills received at their address, as it’s likely their address will be included in the personal data handed over to the fraudsters.

“Also regularly review your credit file with a reputable credit reference agency – it’s easy, doesn’t take long and can help you spot you are being scammed quickly.

“The effects of this scam will last a lifetime: students have run up bills in their thousands by taking part – the equivalent of a car, or a term at university. More importantly, once in this type of debt, it is a permanent stain on your credit rating.”

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com