Studying in Australia is an incredibly exciting adventure, offering new experiences, exposure to a foreign culture, and the chance to make lots of friends from around the world. While most students enjoy a smooth student journey, unfortunately unwelcome situations can sometimes arise in the form of student scams.

We’ve put together some useful tips to help you understand what to look out for and how to protect yourself against some of the most common scams.

If you get a suspicious call or text message, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Please report these at

Your safety and well-being are our top priorities. At the Study Melbourne Hub, we understand that encountering scams can be a distressing experience for international students. That's why our dedicated support staff can provide assistance if you've been affected. Contact us.

Scams Community Guide

The Department of Home Affairs has developed this guide to educate the community on different types of scams and what to do if you fall victim.

Please see attached translated guide (PDF files) on how to spot and avoid scams.

Will your password pass the test of time?

A new password strength tester has been developed so that you can check your password strength and get tips on how to increase it. You can check out the secure tool on the Service Victoria app and website.

There are simple things you can do to create stronger passwords that are more difficult for cybercriminals to hack. To protect your online accounts from hackers:

  • Use passphrases (four or more random words)
  • Use a different password for each account
  • Make your passwords harder to guess by avoiding predictable words
  • Use a password manager
  • Update your passwords when required
  • Turn on multi-factor authentication

Victorians can also learn more about broader cybersecurity hygiene at the Vic Gov’s new Stay Safe Online website. The website covers a broad range of information on:

Don’t wait for tomorrow. Make simple changes today.

Types of scams

Chinese authority scams

Unfortunately, international students are likely targets for scams that can cause financial loss and significant distress. In Victoria alone, several international students have reported being the victim of two scams, which resulted in them losing thousands of dollars.

Keep yourself safe by learning more about what these scams are so you can spot them in the future.

How the scams work

The scammer will call you directly, speaking in Mandarin, and may pretend to be a Chinese authority figure, such as a police officer, a government or immigration official, or a parcel delivery person. They may say that you’re in serious trouble and threaten to get you extradited to China to face criminal charges unless money is sent to them. They will say that this money is needed to prove your innocence while they investigate your “crime”, when you know you’ve done nothing wrong.

Further information on these scams can also be located on the Victoria Police website.

Fake kidnappings

A different version of this scam is when the scammer will threaten you and your family with criminal charges because of your “criminal activity” unless you pretend you’ve been kidnapped, demanding that you send photos of yourself bound and gagged.

Protect yourself against these scams

It’s a frightening experience receiving calls from scammers who will try to use your fear and vulnerability against you.

  • If you ever receive a call from someone making threats about arrests or deportation, it’s a scam
  • Hang up the phone immediately and report it to your local police station or to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000
  • If you think the scammer has your bank account details, contact your bank immediately
  • Warn your friends and family about this scam
  • The Study Melbourne Hub will also be here to provide support for students who have been affected by these scams

This information is from Scamwatch. Please visit their website for detailed information about these scams.

Jobs and employment scams

Stop and check any job that requires you to pay money to make money.

Scammers pretend to be hiring on behalf of high-profile companies and online shopping platforms. They also impersonate well-known recruitment agencies. Their goal is to steal your money and identity details.

They often ask for payment so you can start the role and get the income they’ve promised.

Don’t enter any arrangement that asks for up-front payment via bank transfer, PayID or cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin or USDT. It’s rare to get money back that is sent this way.

For more information visit the Scamwatch website.

Ransom and fraud

A similar scam involves fraud instigated by a fake parcel delivery inquiry. In this instance, the student is contacted and told an illegal parcel addressed to them has been found and is being held and investigated. Often, the student is asked to follow prompts, shown fake police identification, and then coerced into parting with large sums of money.

If you receive a call or email that seems suspicious, it probably is. Government, police or law enforcement officials will never demand your bank account details, passport information or address, or ask to monitor your movements, over the phone. These are clear warning signs that the call is fraudulent and should be reported to Scamwatch, or ReportCyber if it’s an internet-based scam.

Visa and immigration status

Some students have reported being called about their Australian visa status by someone pretending to be an overseas consulate employee. The scammer then tells the student that they’re in trouble in their home country (for example, being involved in a crime) and that their Australian visa will be impacted unless they pay money. In many cases, the scammer has been able to mirror official numbers to help them appear more legitimate.

Know that in Australia, only the Department of Home Affairs can grant, refuse or cancel your student visa. You can also register with the local office of the consulate for your country of origin when you arrive in Victoria, as they are a reliable source of information about your home country. You can find more information on visa scams, and how to report a visa scam, on the Department of Home Affairs website.

Course fees

Some international students are encountering scams around their course fees. In this scam, the student is approached by someone who claims they can bargain a cheaper rate on the student’s course fees. The scammer may even recruit international students to approach other students on their behalf.

Be aware that fees are set by your education provider and are not negotiable. You should never pay your fees to anyone other than your education provider, via the payment methods detailed in your acceptance letter. If you’re ever unsure about fees, have a problem paying them or need further advice, contact your education provider and talk to dedicated student advisors who are there to help you.

Social media or online forums

Social media, online forums and virtual meet-ups are great ways to connect with other students when you first arrive in Victoria. But, be careful with the information you give out and the personal details you display online.

Some rules to follow include:

  • If an email looks suspicious, delete it without opening it
  • If you’re not sure a group or forum is legitimate, ask a friend for a second opinion
  • Make sure you don’t display or give out your personal details online
  • Check documents you send don’t contain sensitive information
  • Never send someone your bank account details, passport number or current address via email
  • Use antivirus and security software on your computer and mobile phone
  • Check your bank and credit card statements regularly for suspicious activity and contact your bank’s helpline immediately if something is not right
  • Know that your bank will never send you confirmation of identity or bank account details via email
  • If you think you may have encountered an online scam, contact Scamwatch or ReportCyber immediately for help

Rental conditions

Finding a new place to live is an exciting part of your student journey. But, if you’re moving into a private rental, it pays to be aware of your rights as a renter so you can protect yourself from difficult or dangerous situations. In some cases, students may be asked to either enter into an illegal rental arrangement that is unfairly controlling, or for money upfront that is then not passed on to the correct person.

Be aware that no one should hold your passport or other important documents while you’re renting accommodation from them. If anyone refuses to give you a key or card to enter the building or asks you not to answer the front door, this is a sign the agreement they’re asking you to adhere to may put you in danger.

Dr Heather Holst, the Commissioner for Residential Tenancies, recommends trusting your instincts and reaching out for advice.

If it doesn’t feel right, there could well be something wrong with what you are being asked to do. My advice is to check in with Study Melbourne or Consumer Affairs Victoria before you sign a contract and at any point where you are worried that something is not right.

You don’t need permission from your landlord or other tenants to call and you won’t be in trouble for doing so.