As an international student, you might find the financial system in your new home tricky to navigate. From bank accounts and accommodation to visas and tuition, there is a lot to stay on top of. Unfortunately, there are some scammers that target students unfamiliar with Australia in an attempt to gain access to money or personal information.

Because of the large amount of money involved, tuition payments can be especially vulnerable to scammers. Here we explain what to look out for and how to protect yourself from tuition payment scams.

How do tuition payment scams work?

There are lots of different scams out there. Scammers can approach you in various places: in visa lines at an embassy or lines for tuition payments, at meetings for international students, or via email or phone. Some of these scammers say they are from government agencies and request payment of an “international student tariff” with the threat that your student visa will be cancelled. Others claim that they’re third-party agents who represent educational institutions. 

This year, RMIT reported that some students had been targeted by scammers offering a discount on their tuition fees if they paid through another person. This other person then paid RMIT with a fake or stolen credit card which was rejected, meaning the fees needed to be paid again and the enrolment may have been cancelled. In similar scams, sometimes actual students were recruited into the scheme and the fraudsters used online advertising to reach more victims.

In 2015, fraudsters offering 10% discounts on university fees conned up to six students in Melbourne. In 2016, students in the UK received emails from what appeared to be their university offering fake tuition grants. The scammers asked for the student’s personal banking information and included a link to a fake bank verification page.

Red flags

Anyone can be fooled by a clever scam. However, there are some major red flags to look out for when it comes to financial transactions. A scammer might:

  • Offer extremely low prices or big discounts.
  • Give you a small (real) discount upfront to gain your trust.
  • Lie and say they work directly for a particular institution without any form of official identification.
  • Be vague on things like terms and conditions, contact details and their head office location.
  • Have inflexible payment options, like demanding payments immediately, in full or only by electronic funds transfer or a wire service. They probably won’t use a secure payment service or a credit card transaction.

Where to go for help

If you suspect you’re being lied to, the best way to confirm information is to contact your educational institution, bank or the Australian government directly, rather than dealing with a third party who reached out to you over email or phone. You can also ask your friends and classmates about their experiences.

The Scamwatch.gov website is a good resource for learning about common types of scams in Australia and most universities offer free legal services if you have any problems. You can also check out our full guide to scams. If you think you’ve been scammed or are worried about your safety, don’t hesitate to contact your local police station.

Make payments securely

To guarantee you’re not being scammed, you can use a payment service Flywire to securely transfer your tuition funds. Flywire allows you to track your payments online so you know exactly when your payments are delivered to your educational institution. Using a reputable payment service means you won’t need to share your banking information with any third party, eliminating the risk of being exposed to fraud. Flywire also offers 24/7 customer support.