Claim: A viral WhatsApp message claims Australian authorities are offering fully funded scholarships for international students at the University of Western Australia.
The link in the WhatsApp message does not lead to the official website of the University of Western Australia but to one which requires users to provide some personal details and also to make some payments for visa.
A viral post on WhatsApp claims that the Australian Government is giving out fully funded scholarships to international students to study at the University of Western Australia.
As usually done by many online fraudsters, the message moving across WhatsApp is a forward-as-received message that attempts to direct readers to a website with an URL that says it belongs to University of Western Australia.
The content contained in the WhatsApp message reads: “AUSTRALIA SCHOLARSHIP 202I, STUDY IN University of Western Australia FULLY FUNDED SCHOLARSHIP FREE”.
It says the scholarship will cover full tuition fees, accommodation, medical facilities, traveling, and stationary allowances of successful students.
The WhatsApp message ends with the instruction to apply via the link, https://bit.ly/Australia-scholarship-2021
The URL in the WhatsApp message directs users to a page where they are asked to provide personal details like names, email, country of origin among others.
The next option allows them to apply and when that is clicked, another page displays “congratulations” in bold.
Here, they are further sent to another page where they are requested to share the link with people on WhatsApp and are also requested to make payment for a visa in order to enter Australia for studies.
Dubawa also found out that the site has an addition of a ‘Secure Sockets Layer’ (SSL certificate) which enables it to carry https://bit.ly/ to convince users that it is credible.
Does a SSL Certificate mean a website is safe to use? The answer is a definite no.
According to Web Titan, the HTTPS or a SSL certificate alone is not a guarantee that the website is secure and can be trusted.
Many people believe that an SSL Certificate means a website is safe to use. Just because a website has a certificate or starts with HTTPS does not guarantee that it is 100% secure and free from malicious intent. It just means that the website is probably safe. In the vast majority of cases, the sites may be.
A check of the website shows that the Uniform Resource Locator URL, which shows the address of a given resource on the worldwide web, does not have the .gov.au domain which is used by most Australian government websites.
It only has bit.ly/Australia-scholarship-2021 domain that raises suspicion.
Further checks on the website domain shows that the “ly” is the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Libya.
In 2011, the bit.ly address was set to redirect to bitly.com. The .ly top level domain, TLD is controlled by the Libyan government, which has previously removed one domain deemed incompatible with Muslim law, and not the Australian Government or the University of Western Australia.
According to Macaria.com Network, to register a website in Australia, one will have to “enter the “.COM.AU” and/or “.NET.AU” domain name(s) assigned to the country and not bit.ly.
Response from the University of Western Australia
The University of Western Australia official website is https://www.uwa.edu.au/home. It has no information about fully funded foreign scholarships as purported in the WhatsApp message.
Furthermore, the Australian Government’s information for international scholarships are posted on this website. If you check carefully, you will observe that the web address contains .gov.au and Australian-education/scholarship as opposed to the one in the viral WhatsApp message.
Even though the website contains an SSL certificate, research and analysis of the site show it is not authentic.
Note: The researcher produced this fact-check per the 2021 Kwame Karikari Fact-checking Fellowship in partnership with Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.