The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Facebook puts freshers’ loans at risk warns Student Loan Company

Public Facebook profiles make first year students easy targets for thieves

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Public Facebook details make Freshers’ easy targets for fraud, the Student Loan Company has warned.

First year students, keen to add new friends, reveal too much personal information on social networking sites which could aid thieves.

An online survey of more than 1,100 university applicants suggests that two thirds of people reveal personal details on their Facebook page, without thinking of the consequences.

Most first year students have not met all their Facebook friends and would only consider a quarter of them as close, but still have their profiles public, the survey suggests.

Dates of birth, relationship status and email addresses are often clearly visible on social networking sites.

With this information, fraudsters can try to hack into bank accounts by sending official-looking emails, asking for more personal details, warns the Student Loans Company.

Last academic year, over 1,600 students were targeted by fraudsters attempting to access their loans.

Heather Laing, the fraud protection and detection manager at the Student Loans Company said: “Freshers are often managing their finances for the first time by themselves when they start university and we want them to make sure they’re keeping their personal and financial information safe, especially online.”

“We monitor student loan phishing very closely and close phishing sites down as soon as students alert us to them, to protect other students.

“Students are often targeted at the three main instalment dates in September, January and April and they need to work with us to ensure their identity and financial details are protected and not compromised.”

Pete Mercer, NUS Vice President (Welfare) said: “There have been some very worrying cases about those who have been victims of phishing scams, particularly individuals who have had their email addresses taken from social networking sites.”

“Students simple cannot afford to fall victim to those who have set up scams to extract data and money. In an age of dozens of logins and passwords, it’s vital to take care with your data and to keep tabs on your accounts.”

To raise awareness of student finance fraud, the Student Loans Company has published “Fraud facts for Freshers” on their website and have promoted them through Facebook and Twitter.

It is important to always create strong passwords for online accounts and to update them regularly. Ignoring emails headed ‘Dear Student’ is recommended, as they are often sent out in bulk and are unlikely to contain personal first or last names, but can look very authentic.