Keeping your money and information safe

Protect your money from scams and fraud while studying in Australia.

Macquarie wants to keep you safe while you study with us and we are aware that there has been a surge in scams and fraud targeting international students in Australia. Below is some information to help keep your finances and information safe, and contacts to reach out to if you are unsure about anything.

What is a scam?

A scam involves an organisation or individual who tries to deceive or trick victims into giving them money, personal information and/or identity.

If you think you've been scammed, contact:

  • Your financial institution immediately
  • Police Assistance Hotline: 131 444
  • Student Wellbeing: +61 (2) 9850 7497

Warning signs to look out for

There are a few warning signs to keep a lookout for such as:

  • discounts/offers that seem too good to be true
  • vague details or a lack of information
  • advising you not to call the police
  • threats of deportation or arrest, and
  • demanding payment in untraditional method such as gift cards, crypto or unfamiliar payment portal with link sent to you

Common scamming methods

Some methods that scammers might use include:

In the current competitive rental market, scammers target vulnerable people in our community, particularly international students. Be cautious of properties with significantly lower prices than other comparable rental properties in the area or landlords who pressure you to sign a lease quickly.

Scammers will advertise cheap accommodation in a desirable location and victims are often pressured into paying a deposit or rent in advance without viewing the accommodation. The advertised accommodation may be different from what was advertised or may not even exist.

How to protect yourself

  • Inspect the property in person before paying a deposit (be wary if there are excuses about why you can’t view the property in person)
  • Never pay a ‘viewing fee’
  • Have a written and signed contract before making any payments
  • Get a receipt for any payments made and avoid paying for a rental property by transfer or cash as these payment methods are difficult to trace and could be lost to scammers.
  • Avoid paying rental bonds to individuals online. Instead, rental bonds should always be paid through a trusted third party such as NSW Fair Trading Rental Bonds Online, who will lodge and refund bond money securely

If you’re looking for accommodation, make sure you check the accommodation page of the student website for both on and off campus options and advice.

Scammers might tell you that you have committed a crime or have reports against you and you are in trouble – often with government departments such as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or Department of Home Affair (DoHA). They then would demand you to take action immediately to avoid arrest, fine, deportation or cancellation of visa.

Scammers might invent a seemly legitimate way to make you believe that you are entitled to a lump sum of money, for example a cashback, Covid-19 support, disaster support, etc.

Scammers might offer you a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to make money quick and easy with little to zero risk.

Scammers might impersonate genuine charities and ask for money donations.

You might receive a text message, phone call or email stating that you owe money to an organization (often a big company or a government department); or you are advised that you have a parcel/mail to collect. You would be asked to click on a link to organise payment of the outstanding bill, or pickup/delivery of the parcel.

Scammers are also known to have offered international students a ‘different way’ to pay for tuition fee with a discount. Macquarie University does not offer discounts on tuition fee. Information about secure ways to pay your tuition fee can be found on our How to pay website.

Preventative steps you can take

If you are looking to strengthen your personal security to keep yourself safe from scams, these tips are a great place to start.

  • Limit the amount of personal information you put online and do not give your personal information to strangers
  • Do not give money to strangers online
  • Ensure your PINs and passwords are secure and private.  We advise you use a strong PIN or password.
  • If you suspect you have been targeted by a scammer, do not respond to them. Block their email and/or phone number and report it as soon as possible.
  • If you are feeling uneasy or unsure about a phone call, you can always hang up and seek advice before making any decisions.
  • If something sounds too good to be true, it often is!

More information and tips to protect yourself can be found on the Australian Government's ScamWatch website.

I feel like I'm being scammed, what should I do?

If you receive a call, text message, email or any type of contact from stranger or even the account of people you know, consider:

Identify: Does it have any signs that it might be a scam, or does it feel right to you?

Pause and take some time: always keep in mind that you do not have to act straight away. Pause, or just hang up. Take the time you need to check it out properly before you proceed.

Seek support: Consult other people you trust, the university or the police - it is confidential.

Report: Make an online report to ScamWatch or the police on 131 444 – it is available 24/7.

Contacts available if you think you're being scammed

If you think that someone has your bank details, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

  • Reach out to the Macquarie University Student Wellbeing for support.
  • Report the matter to the Police. You can either make a report at a police station in person or contact the NSW Police Assistance Line on 131 444.
  • Make a report to ScamWatch.

Please be reassured that Macquarie University staff and Australian authorities take these matters very seriously and we encourage you to reach out and let us know if you need any support because we are here to help.

Support resources

We highly recommend you check out ScamWatch – it has a lot of resources and information on different types of scams, where to get help, news and statistics about scam activities in Australia.

Known recent scams

Below is some information on recent scams that have been targeting International students studying in Australia

In recent years, NSW Police issued a warning to Chinese students following a rise in ‘virtual kidnappings’. The NSW Police force, together with Chinese authorities and universities, warned members of the community about an elaborate phone scam targeting Chinese students, known globally as a ‘virtual kidnapping’.

For more information, please read the NSW Police Force press release:

These extortions are scams, the people involved are not members of the Chinese government and you MUST ignore unexpected contact from people purporting to be from the Chinese Police or any arm of the Chinese government.

Students continue to fall victim to these types of scams and even go as far as travelling overseas to complying with the  directions of the scammers. In doing so you may be placing yourself in physical danger by following the directions - if you ignore the scammers totally there is no danger.

You should report this to the NSW Police Force if you receive any contact from people claiming to be working with or for the Chinese Police.

Some students are being coerced into believing they must work for the Chinese Police. They are participating in a form of online swearing in or induction into what they believe is the Chinese Police Force. They are then given directions or missions that they must complete. This may involve assaulting potential targets, delivering documents, assisting in holding a person captive or booking hotel rooms on behalf of another person.

Again, this is a scam. Students should be mindful that assaulting other people, even if they are doing so under the erroneous belief they have the authority to do so of the Chinese Police, is itself a crime under NSW law. The same can be said for holding another person captive under the false belief they are acting on behalf of the Chinese Police or any arm of the Chinese government.

How to protect yourself:

  • Ignore the scammers – simply hang up on them.
  • Report that you have been contacted to the NSW Police Force, the University where you attend, your friends and family, the Chinese Consulate on 0481262258.
  • Do not become isolated. Tell people what has happened.
  • Do not travel interstate or overseas when directed to do so by these scammers.
  • Do not comply with any instructions you are given by these people.

Don't be fooled by anyone who offers a discounted fee – this is a scam that the University has seen repeatedly. Tuition fees are set by the University and discounts are not offered under ANY circumstances.

Other types of scams include selling items at discounted rates, such as airline tickets or discounted exchange rates.

How to protect yourself:

  • Be responsible for paying your own tuition fees directly to the University.
  • Know the approved methods of payment.
  • Never trust anyone who is claiming that they can offer you discounted fees, including a “friend” or “friend of a friend” or anyone acting as an “agency”.
  • Protect your privacy – Don’t give your personal information to another person, including your eStudent password.