Money

Scams, cons and schemes: Money mistakes that international students in the UK must avoid

Alys Tomlinson | Cultura | Getty Images

According to one survey, international students at U.K. universities spend an average £816 ($1,003) per month in living costs, risking falling further into debt.

Rent made up the biggest chunk of spending, costing an average £484 per month. This was followed by £104 needed for groceries while takeaways or eating out accounted for £40 of monthly costs. Going out or socializing averaged just £37 per month.

Money advice website Save the Student also included British scholars in their wider survey of around 4,000 people, finding students fall short on living costs by an average of £267 every month.

In short, the U.K. is expensive and the last thing a student needs is to waste precious cash. CNBC finds out how some students coming to Britain are being set up for for scams and hears advice on how to avoid them.

Beware of visa scammers

One unnecessary cost can occur even before students arrive in the country as they try to make sure all the paperwork is in place.

"I think the biggest challenge for students coming to the UK is that they can feel quite panicked, that they have to do something by a certain deadline," says Anne Marie Graham, chief executive at the UK Council for International Student Affairs.

Students coming from outside the EU who need a visa are required to provide evidence they cover the cost of studying in the UK, for instance. The general student Tier 4 visa costs £348 ($428).

"One thing I would strongly want to flag is really think very carefully about who is asking you for your money and if they are asking you for a large sum of money," Graham adds.

Tom Clementson, a consumer director at secure payment service Shieldpay, suggests watching out for scammers posing as the Home Office threatening legal action and deportation if students fail to share personal details or pay visa fees.

"If a call or email seems unusual don't panic, end the communication and speak to your university who will help you check what's genuine and what's not," he told CNBC via email.

Seek funding but watch the small print

Save the Student's research found half (51%) of international students were unaware of the funding available to them before starting at university.

Students coming to the U.K. from within the EU are still eligible for a loan from the UK government to cover tuition fees, which are capped at £9,250 and living costs, for an undergraduate degree.

But Undergraduates from outside the EU do not qualify for a UK government loan, with fees ranging between £10,500 and £33,500 a year.

Exchange programs, private company sponsorship and scholarships are some of the alternative funding options to look out for, as highlighted on the Save the Student website.

However, Clementson warns that students must watch out for phishing emails from scammers attempting to steal fees by claiming they will help pay tuition fees or offering an additional bursary.

Watch for "rogue landlords"

"International students are heavily marketed at by private halls of residence but there are often cheaper options either in university-owned or the wider private rented sector," warns UK rights group the National Union of Students.

International students should check with their university if it operates a guarantor scheme, if they are asked to provide one for accommodation. They should also check if the university has a relationship with a private provider or can help find a property where a guarantor is not needed, to avoid being "forced to pay loads of rent up front."

Clementson tells students to be aware of "rogue landlords" targeting first-time renters.

"Don't pay any money until you have seen the property and check your deposit is protected by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme," he says.

Save the Student money expert Jake Butler also urges students to double check contracts, take photos of the property when moving in and ask the landlord for an inventory.

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