Student loan fraud warning to university freshers
Freshers are being warned their student loans could be stolen if they reveal too much information on Facebook.
The Student Loans Company says fraudsters target unwitting first-year students who give personal details on social networking sites.
An online survey of more than 1,100 university applicants suggests many will invite new people they meet to be Facebook friends.
And two-thirds reveal personal details that could aid thieves.
Fraudsters sometimes try to hack into bank accounts by sending convincing-looking emails which ask for specific personal details. This is known as phishing.
But they start by getting an individual's email address.
The fraud protection and detection manager at the Student Loans Company, Heather Laing, 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."
The online survey of more than 1,100 UK university applicants suggests nearly three-quarters would reveal their date of birth and relationship status without thinking too much of the consequences.
And two in five will give out their email address.
However, most new students have not met their Facebook friends and consider only about a quarter of them as close.
The survey suggests male students are at higher risk of student finance fraud than females as they are more likely to make their Facebook profiles public.
In the last academic year, fraudsters attempted to access money from more than 1,600 students.
The specialist investigations unit at the SLC says it saved more than £2m of student finance from being fraudulently diverted from its rightful recipients.