18th January 2024

Bogus uni website taken down

A website for a fake university had been set up to scam money from unsuspecting overseas students.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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It is trying to exploit overseas students unfamiliar with academic establishments and the enrolment process in the UK, something our officers have now thwarted

Suffolk Trading Standards has closed down a website for a fake university that was set up to scam overseas students into paying thousands of pounds for bogus courses.

The so-called ‘College of Suffolk’ website used images of the real University of Suffolk and claimed to offer courses in acting, musical theatre, dance and performance for fees ranging from £3,500 to £8,900.

Claiming to be based in Ipswich and established in 1990, the fake university was actually part of a scam being operated by fraudsters in Hong Kong.

The website featured a foreword by ‘college President Dr Stephen Spinks’, describing “exciting learning opportunities in business, human resources, accountancy, finance, musician [sic] and art – all critical areas for the world of work.”

It also included a page promoting Suffolk, highlighting local breweries and celebrities such as singer Ed Sheeran.

Graham Crisp, Head of Suffolk Trading Standards, said: “Websites like this can be used to attract students, collect personal information and course fees. They can also be used to sell fake degree certificates.

“It is trying to exploit overseas students unfamiliar with academic establishments and the enrolment process in the UK, something our officers have now thwarted.”

It is the second scam of its type to be foiled by Suffolk Trading Standards – an identical bogus website was closed down in 2019.

Councillor Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health, Public Protection, & Communities, said: “A degree from a British college or university is an enticing prospect for an overseas student and those behind this scam were trying to exploit that.

“Thankfully the vigilance of Suffolk Trading Standards has prevented this website from trying to pick up where it would appear to have previously left off and will not be conning people into paying for non-existent courses.”

While Suffolk Trading Standards has had no reports of victims in the UK, there may be some based overseas.

Anyone considering applying for a college course can beat degree fraud through the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) website to check whether a university or college is an official degree-awarding body, download free toolkits to tackle degree fraud and check original degree certificates with the issuing university.

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