Student who lost £2,700 in Manchester Snapchat scam on what to look out for

Action Fraud says the allegations around the scam have been reported and it is investigating.

Students are being warned about remaining vigilant against fraud online after an undergraduate said she was scammed by an operation based in Manchester using Snapchat.

Action Fraud is investigating after a student lost more than £2,500 after being approached on the social media app by someone purporting to be from Student Finance England saying it was possible to have her student loan increased if a processing fee was made.

The student finance body has also put out a warning that people at university need to be careful when online and being approached about financial matters, including specific instructions not to engage with people about money on Snapchat.

What does the undergraduate say happened?

An undergraduate, who we are not naming, approached ManchesterWorld to say that while she was on Snapchat she added someone who said he was from Student Finance England. She was told that she could increase the amount she was receiving to support her during her studies but there would be a fee for processing it.

After she had agreed to this the account proceeded to get hold of her card details during the process of getting the fee payment across to him via the bank. Instead of sending back the increased amount of money that had been promised the student then found that almost £2,700 had been taken from her bank account to be spent on various transactions.

ManchesterWorld has seen evidence suggesting that the scam originated in Manchester.

The scammer claimed on Snapchat to be working for Student Finance England. Photo: AdobeStock

The student said that throughout the conversations online the scammer repeatedly reassured her that everything was legitimate and above board. And with students struggling to cope with the cost of supporting themselves through their degrees as prices soar, she is worried that other cash-strapped young people will suffer the same fate as her if they are approached on social media.

She said: “It said Student Finance England on this Snapchat account and I even got sent confirmation texts saying that I could get increased payments. I didn’t think it was just from a random number.

“He just took my details and then there were these transactions. I was really struggling financially and needed help with my course, my rent and everything. I probably should have done more research before he took the money but I wasn’t really thinking.”

What has Student Loans Company said?

The Student Loans Company (SLC) confirmed the undergraduate has reported her experiences to its fraud department. The organisation has also been sharing information with students specifically about Snapchat scams and about ensuring they are not victims of phishing and other types of cybercrime more generally.

A message released on Twitter specifically told anyone who is approached on Snapchat by someone claiming to be from Student Finance England that under no circumstances should they reply or engage further.

The SLC says the start of academic terms and years are times when students need to be particularly vigilant to make sure they do not fall victim to fraudsters as payments are making their way to them.

The organisation has also made a list of telltale signs that could help young people to recognise scammers. These include frequent misspellings and poor use of punctuation and grammar in messages, messages that start with a generic address like: “Dear Student” as this could indicate they are being sent in bulk, and warnings that failures to respond within a short time period such as 24 hours will result in accounts being closed. Students were also urged to use official phone numbers, their online accounts and official communication channels to verify any contact they receive from people about money is genuine.

The Student Loans Company has warned about scammers claiming to be from Student Finance England on instant messaging app Snapchat. Photo: AdobeStock

Bernice McNaught, executive director for repayments and customer compliance at the Student Loans Company, said: “It’s no surprise that at this time of year students, especially Freshers, have a lot on their minds - getting to grips with classes and campuses, making new friends or exploring new surroundings.

“With so many things taking attention, it’s easy for students to drop their guard when it comes to mindfulness over online scams and fraudulent phishing. Unfortunately, digital scams, phishing and identity theft have become an everyday part of modern life, and scammers are all too aware that the three student finance payment periods in September, January and April each year are a prime time for them to try to trick students.

“Keeping money in students’ pockets is a high priority for SLC. Our Counter Fraud teams work to keep on top of the constantly evolving digital scams, to support students who may be in danger of losing their funds to fraudsters. The first line of defence against fraudsters is always students themselves. They can keep their account safe by following our simple tips.”

Take Five, a national campaign aimed at stopping fraud, also has advice on its website.

What has Action Fraud said?

Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, said about the undergraduate’s allegations: “Action Fraud can confirm that it received this case on 4 October 2022 and it is currently being assessed by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.”