Page last updated at 12:55 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 13:55 UK

University used in Nigerian scam

The fake letters were sent to Liverpool Hope University

The name of a Liverpool university has been used in an internet scam.

About 15 students in Nigeria have been sent fraudulent degree offer letters purporting to be from Liverpool Hope University.

The bogus educational and scholarship agencies have then asked the applicants for non-refundable acceptance fees.

The university was alerted to the scam when several students got in touch who had paid their fees but not heard anything more about their places.

A spokesperson for Liverpool Hope has warned prospective students to use an officially appointed university agent.

It reminded prospective students that applications for university programmes are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), or through official university application forms, either online or paper.

Liverpool Hope University
The university is now helping those affected to re-apply

The fraudulent letters were printed on paper that appeared to have an official university letterhead and to have been signed by actual members of university staff.

But when read carefully, the quality of the English used in the letter is poor and the e-mail address is wrong.

Nancy Cooke, international recruitment manager at Liverpool Hope, said: "A number of students contacted us at the office by telephone and e-mail asking us about their admissions.

"We were trying to find them on the system, trying to help them with their inquiry, but the numbers didn't match up, the names didn't match up, the dates of birth didn't match and some of the courses weren't true either.

"Then we tried to get more information from them. A number of students sent the letter to us and we could see that it was fraudulent.

"They had paid money for the letter to someone in Nigeria."

It's a dream come true for students to come here to the UK to study
Bassey I Ekanem

She added: "I strongly urge applicants to select their educational consultant or agent very carefully and, if possible, contact the university directly to find out who the officially appointed agents are.

"In Nigeria we work with Global Education Study Centres and Infozee."

Bassey I Ekanem, a student from Nigeria who applied legitimately through the university website, said: "It's a dream come true for students to come here to the UK to study.

"Most of the scammers take advantage of this dream. They take advantage of the fact that they are desperate and really want to make their dreams come true."

The students affected are now being helped to re-apply through the correct channels.

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