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UK: phone scam targets Indians, Pakistanis

Indian and Pakistani university students in the UK are being targeted in a telephone scam in which perpetrators masquerade as immigration officials to extort money from them on the threat of deportation. Students typically receive a call from someone claiming to work for the UK Border Agency who has some personal information about the student – usually their name or passport number.

UKBA said its caseworkers never approached an existing visa holder this way and had no system of financial penalties

“They will say that there is a serious problem with your immigration status, and that you need to send a payment by Western Union as soon as possible to prevent further action or investigation by the UKBA,” said the UK Council for International Student Affairs, which is alerting students on its website.

“They will speak in dramatic terms, perhaps talking about deportation, but this is a common fraudster’s technique, which can cause you to panic and become pressurised into paying the ‘fine’.”

“They will speak in dramatic terms, perhaps talking about deportation”

UKCISA said the fraud had been reported at a number of universities and that UKBA was taking the matter seriously. UKBA said its caseworkers occasionally called students about a pending immigration application, but never approached an existing visa holder this way and had no system of financial penalties.

It’s unclear how students’ passport numbers have been obtained, but some believe fraudsters have accessed information given by students when applying for mobile phones. Lycamobile, for instance, accepts passport numbers as proof of ID.

Students may also have exposed their UK addresses by uploading their CVs to jobs websites. “Whichever, I have to say that on this occasion it does not seem to be UKBA’s fault through data loss,” Dominic Scott, chief executive of UKCISA, told The PIE News.

“The fraud was always visa related but more recently had involved requests for missing information”

UKCISA recommends students do not give unknown callers any personal information, or confirm that the information the caller has is correct. It confirmed the fraud was always visa related but more recently had involved requests for missing information from landing cards.

“You may wish to tell the caller that you know about the fraudulent calls they are making, and that you will be reporting the call to the police and the UKBA. Or you may wish to simply hang up,” said the association.

“Report the incident to your international student adviser, who can report the fraud to the police and to the UKBA if you wish.”

UKBA said that it would place a warning on its website but the wording was still being agreed by the police. Students may also seek assistance at the Action Fraud site.

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