11:12 16 October 2006
The Student Loans company has issued a warning highlighting the increasing instances of pupils being targeted by fraudsters attempting to trick them into revealing their bank account details.
The primary scam is having a fake site, letter or message mocked up to look like an official Student Loans service, usually via "phishing" emails sent out to obtain confidential details.
Students were conned out of £107,000 between September 2009 and July 2010, compared with £43,000 a year earlier.
Fraud prevention mananger Heather Lang offered some advice: Scammers exploit this increased contact from the company, and some students may fall victim to an email request that looks to be from Student Finance England or the Student Loans Company asking for confirmation of bank details, she said.
However, we will never ask students to confirm their bank details via email. If they do receive such a request, they should forward it on to us to investigate.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said: "It's important that students are protected. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to remove your email address if it's online or hide it on social networking sites, if you use them."
Furthermore, an investigation has found that householders who throw their documents out with the rubbish are unwittingly handing their details to identity thieves.
According to the government, this is a rising problem that is costing Britain 1.7bn a year.
Thieves can use personal documents to gain access to bank accounts, run up bills, create false documents such as passports or birth certificates and carry out benefit fraud.
Although ID fraud is very alarming, there are steps you can take to try to protect yourself.
Electronic shredders are on sale for as little as £10 and are a hassle-free way of destroying documents.
Identity fraud is not only committed using stolen paper documents, it also operates over the internet.
If you receive an e-mail purporting to be from your bank or credit card provider which asks you to update your details, it is likely to be a "phishing" scam.
One of the most common tools fraudsters use is known as phising. This involves sending you an email that looks like it has come from your bank - it may even include the bank's logo to make it appear official.
The email asks for you to update your personal details and send them back to the sender. These will include your password and other information to access your account online.
Banks never email you to ask for this kind of information. If you are sent an email asking for your online banking details never reply to it. Send it on to your bank so it can investigate, and delete it from your PC. Never click on a link in the email which takes you to a website. This could give the criminals access to your details.
If you have replied to a phishing email, tell your bank immediately so it can monitor your account.
Fraudsters may also access your online banking details by sending viruses to your computer. This basically allows criminals to spy on your computer and see what is stored on it. Never open spam emails because by doing so you might download a virus.
It is essential to have good security on your computer including a firewall which prevents hacking, anti-virus software and anti-spyware tools. As online banking fraud gets more sophisticated you need to update your software on a regular basis.
Your bank will never phone you out of the blue to ask you for security information such as your PIN or the whole of your password.
If your bank does call you, it may be in connection with a recent transaction or withdrawal you made from a cash machine it wants to check, and it may ask for certain characters from your password.
Your bank is more likely to ask personal information such as your mother's maiden name or the first school you went to.
Despite constant warnings about online fraud, many Britons are still not heeding the advice. And worryingly, a quarter of all online shoppers don't check whether a website is secure.
Top tips include:
1. Avoid using an internet cafe or library for online banking. If you have to use one, always make sure you log off properly when you have finished.
2. If you are banking or shopping online, check the security icon - a locked padlock or unbroken key - is showing on the bottom of the screen. The beginning of a retailer's internet address will change from http to https, with the extra 's' denoting that the site is secure.
3. Make sure the browser you use - such as Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera - to search the internet is set to a high level of security. The safety options are not always activated when you install them on your computer. You can usually download the most up-to-date versions from their websites.
4. If you regularly check your bank statements you will see any suspicious transactions that might have been made. Always contact your bank immediately if you find a transaction you haven't made. Tear up or shred any documents that contain information about your financial affairs.
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