Scam targets Chinese students in UK with fear of deportation

Letter tiles spelling out "scam"
Credit: Nick Youngson (http://nyphotographic.com/)

Joanne Krus
Deputy News Editor

Several Chinese students were targeted by an elaborate scam within days of arriving in the UK. Scammers posed as police officers and threatened jail time if the students did not cooperate.

During the summer, one student from Nottingham University reported having her laptop stolen at the airport. It contained important information to identify her, including her bank details. The student received a phone call a week later from someone claiming to work at the Chinese Embassy. They told her that they had received police information that she was linked to a money-laundering case in China.

She was told by the fraudsters to cooperate with the investigation and was given a case number and a number for the fake Chinese police office. Posing as police officers, the scammers provided the student with a URL to a fake website, claiming to be the Chinese Prosecutor General’s office.

The student’s personal information was posted on the website, including her national ID card number and the photograph used on the card.

The fake police officer told her she had to post a videotaped statement onto a Chinese social media platform called QQ, or else she would go to prison. She was also told she would need to go back to China.

Speaking anonymously to The Observer she said: “I thought, it will ruin my life if I cannot tackle this case. I was too scared to think of anything except crying because they told me at the beginning I can’t tell anyone, including parents, otherwise they will be implicated.”

The fraudsters told her she needed to pay £30,000 as bail money, which she did, fearing that she would be deported if she refused.

She finally spoke to staff members at the University and upon realising it had been a scam, reported it to UK police. Unfortunately, it was too late for the police to recover her money.

Speaking to The Observer, she said that she has since been in contact with other Chinese students who also fell victim to scams. A similar scam also targeted three students from Newcastle University. 

An official from the Chinese Embassy has said: “We are warning all Chinese students when they come to the UK. What makes us feel heartbroken is that there are always Chinese students who fall for it.”

Nottingham University has provided information on this scam to all new international students and informed its staff.