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  • Ian Buss

Fraud in the Education Sector - Pupils also at risk

With the threat of fraud continuing to grow, schools, not only need to look to protect themselves from scams, but also recognise that their pupils are also vulnerable to approaches from fraudsters.

It is therefore now vital that schools look to embed fraud awareness across the whole of their organisation.


Within the Finance Team

Schools should look to ensure that their finance team is familiar with the key scams operated by fraudsters:

CEO Fraud – Within a school, this type of fraud would see fraudulent emails which are made to look like they’ve been sent by a senior member of staff, asking for a payment to be made.

Invoice Fraud – A fake request, often received by email or letter to change bank account numbers of suppliers paid by a school.

Vishing (Telephone Scams) – Fraudsters purporting to be from a trusted organisation (such as your bank) phone a school and attempt to trick staff into either:

  • Divulging online banking passwords

  • Making a payment to what they don’t realise is a fraudulent account or

  • Downloading software which allows the fraudster to take remote control of a school’s computer and or passwords.

It is critical that the Finance team know how to detect and prevent these types of fraud, by following these key tips:

Never rely on the email address appearing to be legitimate or the wording to be familiar when it comes to making payments or changing a suppliers bank account details. Email accounts can be hacked and crucial details such as account numbers and sort codes changed.

All requests received from a supplier or another beneficiary asking to change the account number for any payments, should be checked using an alternative source of communication, such as phoning a named contact using a number known to be correct.

Authenticate phone calls from banks and other organisations by calling them back on an independently sourced number e.g. bank website.

Never rely on the number appearing on your caller display as confirmation of the source of the call. These numbers are now being spoofed with easy to obtain software.

Ensure all colleagues are aware that banks will never ask for online passwords, PIN’s or card and reader codes.


Within the Curriculum

As students are now more tech savvy than they ever have been, they too are vulnerable to the approaches of fraudsters, this may be as the target of a scam or to act as a ‘money mule’ – where students are paid a small fee for transferring criminal funds through their account.

This is often under the guise of either a fake job advert on social media, or to help out a ‘friend’ who needs funds transferred to them.

It is therefore vital that schools now include Fraud Education within their curriculum. CIFAS (UK fraud prevention service) together with PSHE Association, the national body for Personal, Social, Health and Economic education have recently published a number of Anti-Fraud lesson plans targeted at 11-16 year olds and cover Key Stage 3 and 4.

The lessons aim to help students:

Recognise what fraud is, why they may be targeted and how to seek support;

  • Explain the consequences of committing fraud;

  • Develop skills to protect their online information and personal data; and

  • Develop skills to critically evaluate the reliability of online content in relation to scams

You can find the lessons plans here:

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