Parents in Staffordshire are being warned about a scam involving fake private school officials conning people out of money.

The fraudsters pose as private school officials and contact parents via email, outlining details and payment instructions for the latest school fees.

In some instances, scammers have hacked into schools' email systems to make it seem as though bonafide school officials have sent the emails.

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The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau says it has also seen instances where the email address used can be easily mistaken for the school's real email address, with fraudsters making small changes to letters, for example using 'nn' instead of an 'm' in an address.

Victim are conned into paying payments into a bank account which is in the control of the fraudster, said a bureau spokesman.

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By the time the con has been discovered, the funds have already been taken, he said.

In several instances, the scammer has offered a discount on the fees as long as the parents pay early.

Staffordshire police have issued advice to schools and parents on how to safeguard themselves against this latest scam.

They say:

Advice for schools:

  • Ensure all administration staff are aware of this fraud.
  • Ensure staff are aware of protocols regarding not opening links or attachments from unexpected or suspicious emails in the event the email system may get compromised.
  • Review password protocols and ensure those that are used are strong, as long as possible and contain a combination of letters as well as numbers and symbols.
  • Review internal procedures regarding how the fee payments are requested and ensure these are relayed to the parents so they can easily identify suspicious requests.
  • Ensure computer systems are secure and that anti-virus software is up to date.
  • To help combat "typo squatting" the school could consider registering similar domain names.
  • Ensure required security updates to computer systems are completed.

Advice for parents:

  • Always verify email payment changes in respect of payment fees with the school directly using established contact details you have on file, especially for ones which are not expected or for a different amount than expected.
  • Always review requests to changes for payment requests. Check for inconsistencies or grammatical errors, such as a misspelt school name or a slightly different email address.
  • Don't be afraid to verify details when being asked to make fee payments into a new bank account.

Anyone who thinks they may have fallen victim to a scam should contact Staffordshire Police with any incidents on 101 or Action Fraud .