International students studying at the Australian National University (ANU) and other Australian and international universities have become the primary targets for a sophisticated financial scam.

To make sure everyone stays safe and vigilant, we'll be taking a look at what this financial scam is, what to keep an eye out for, and what to do if you think you've been targeted by this scam. Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.


Spotting the financial scam

This financial scam mainly targets international students studying at Australian universities, with ANU reporting this as a particularly worrying problem for its students. This scam involves scammers posing as Australian government officials, and threatening students with deportation and imprisonment unless pay up large sums of money.

While this will feel scary and intimidating for international students, it's important to know that Australian government officials will never ask you to share your personal details or transfer money over the phone, or advise you not to contact anyone.

If someone is asking for money or your bank details over the phone, it is most likely a scam and you should hang up the phone immediately.

What to do

If you're an international student at ANU and you think you're being targeted, there support services available from the university, as well as instructions on what to do:

  • Reach out to the ANU Student Safety and Wellbeing Team for support.

  • Report the matter to Police. You can either make a report at the police station in person, or contact ACT Policing on 131 444.

    • Australian Federal Police are aware of the situation and ANU is working closely with them

  • Report the scam to ScamWatch.

If you're not studying at ANU and you're not sure about what to do or just need someone to talk to, whether it's related to this scam or something else, our Sonder support team is also available at any time if you want to chat or if you need some help.

Make sure you never send any money or provide your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone to anyone. If you've received a call like this, hang up immediately and report it to ScamWatch. If you've shared or think a scammer has your bank details, contact your bank or financial institution as soon as possible.

To keep safe from scammers, here's a list of tips on how to stay vigilant about all the potential scams out there:

  • Be alert to the fact that scams exist.

    • When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses through any form of communication, always consider the possibility that it's a scam.

    • If it looks too good to be true, it most likely is.

  • Know who you’re dealing with.

    • If you've only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a business, take some time to do a bit more research.

    • If you've received a message or email from a friend and it seems unusual or out of character for them, contact your friend directly to check that it was really them that sent it.

  • Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails - delete them.

  • Don’t respond to phone calls about your computer asking for remote access - hang up.

  • Keep your personal details secure.

  • Keep your mobile devices and computers secure.

    • Always use password protection and two-factor authentication for logins.

  • Choose your passwords carefully.

    • Make sure your passwords are strong and contains a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.

    • Don't use the same password for every account/profile.

  • Review your privacy and security settings on social media.

    • Be careful of who you connect with on social media and learn how to adjust your privacy and security settings to ensure you stay safe.

  • Beware of any requests for your details or money, and unusual payment requests.

    • Never send money or give out bank details to people you don't know.

  • Be careful when shopping online

    • Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust

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If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: ANU, Campus Morning Mail, and Scamwatch

Image credit: Australian National University on Instagram

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

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