Online scam swindles thousands of dollars from international students

SCAMMERS posing as education agents are alleged to have fleeced large sums of money from international students at Monash and Melbourne Uni. Siti Mokhsin has the report.

WeChat is one of the avenues where potential scammers could be lurking.

WeChat is one of the avenues where potential scammers could be lurking.

International students posing as education agents have allegedly scammed fellow students, swindling them out of thousands of dollars according to a Fairfax report.

The scammers — who advertised online through Chinese language forums such as 6park and Yeeyi and social media services including WeChat and Facebook — targeted university students in Melbourne and Sydney, offering victims 10 per cent discounts on tuition fees.

Posing as education agents for major universities, victims were told their fees would be passed on to their respective universities.

Unfortunately for victims, these empty promises have resulted in large debt — one student was alleged to have racked up more than $35,000 in tuition debt.

The university scammers are understood to have been international students at the University of Melbourne and Monash University. They identified themselves to victims as education agents from Melbourne University, Monash University, RMIT and Deakin University.

Monash University reported less than ten of its students had been fleeced by scammers. A small group of students from Melbourne University were also scammed.

Professor Susan Elliott, Deputy Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor International at the University of Melbourne, said “the small group of students that came forward to notify the University of this scam were given legal advice and support to approach the police.”

Professor Elliott also adds affected students “also have access to the full range of support including counselling and financial advice.”

Monash University spokesperson Adam Redman also says it has “a comprehensive range of support services” in place for students “including advice to be aware of scams”.

Victoria Police, with the cooperation of affected universities, is currently investigating the scam. Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Protecting yourself from scams

To ensure students are protected from scams in the future, Professor Elliot said Melbourne University will “include advice about fraud in [its] Orientation Week presentations.” Educators will also “meet regularly with student representatives and share information” about fraud protection in the future too.

Professor Elliot further adds advises students “apply reality tests to anything that appears too good to be true”.

“If a stranger is offering discounts for a range of services, it is well worth asking if it is possible to do this. What are their credentials and what is their business model?” she said.

Furthermore, students worried about scams can seek help from Scamwatch whose general guide for protection from scams includes:

  • Being alert to the fact that scams exist
  • Identifying the many types of scams that exist
  • Keeping personal details, mobile devices, computers secure
  • Spotting fake documents

If you are suspicious of a scam happening to yourself or someone you know, contact Scamwatch or get in touch with your university’s support services for help and advice.

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