“He gave me three options: that he would either deport me, take me to a detention centre, or… pay £1,000,” said 23-year old Sanya Arora, a student at Cardiff University.
Panicking, she ran to her accommodation’s receptionist for help. When the receptionist took the phone, the caller hung up.
Arora is one of several international students at the university who have recently fallen prey to calls asking for money or else face detention.
Several students at the Cardiff University have reported that they’ve received fake calls from unknown numbers often claiming to be from the University or from an online anti-virus software agency asking for money in ransom for deportation or in exchange for computer protection.
Action Fraud urges students to keep safe and avoid trusting unknown callers.
“It is easy to fake a caller ID,” says Steve Proffict, Deputy Head of Action Fraud. “It is just a simple computer tactic which people use. Called IDs should not be trusted.”
Proffict says that students are not the only victims. Even the elderly are being (have been?) targeted.
“They call you up and say that your computer has a virus. Elderly people who don’t have much of an idea tend to believe such callers and give into their monetary demands,” says Proffcint.
Hacking computers is the most common scam. Threatening to detain or deport is amongst the lesser known ones. Anyone can fall pretty to it.
Natasha Shetty, studying dermatology at the Cardiff University could not close her internet browser window one evening. A pop up appeared on her screen asking her to call the number for further instructions.
“They had me download some applications through which they had access to my laptop like I did, which was fishy,” says Natasha. “They asked me for my card details to buy a software off them and I asked if it was legit, and he laughed saying it’s a good question but it is too late to ask.”
Proffct explains that this is not unusual. Scammers will ask the victim to purchase a software, usually priced at £69,99, as a one-off fee, except that it is a recurring charge.
“Downloading that software gives them access to all your incoming and outgoing emails, passwords, security details and much more,” says Steve.
Arora says that the event was “scary” and that she wouldn’t want to recollect it. “i genuinely thought i was going to be deported for no fault of mine. I don’t have family here and when calls like these come, I begin to panic. I don’t know what to do,” says Arora.
Action Fraud urges everyone to keep their security software up-to date and avoid downloading any external programs from unknown websites.
“Don’t pick up unknown numbers, and if someone calls and accuses you of something or asks you for money, disconnect the call. They wouldn’t call back as these systems are programmed to go onto another caller,” says Steve.