Fact Check

Scammers use malicious link in guise of Commonwealth Scholarship Programme to defraud online users

Claim: A message circulating on WhatsApp, claims to offer the 2022/2023 Commonwealth scholarship programme

The circulating message claiming to offer the 2022/2023 Commonwealth scholarship programme is a fraudulent scheme. The Commonwealth Scholarship programme shares no affiliation to the message, and the commission has not mentioned the circulating scheme as part of their programme. Even more analysis shows that the registration link in the message is fraudulent and not trustworthy. As such, this claim is false. 

Full Text

The Commonwealth of Nations is a political association that comprises 54 states (countries) which are former territories of the British empire. Connected by the use of English Language, they share the similar values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Scholarships, such as the Commonwealth’s, are highly competitive opportunities that different individuals seek across many countries in the world. As stated on Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s website, the “Commonwealth scholarships enable talented and motivated individuals to gain the knowledge and skills required for sustainable development, and are offered to citizens from low and middle income Commonwealth countries.” It allows beneficiaries to study at the universities in the UK.

It is perhaps because of the reverential attention that people give to the scholarship programmes that a post advertising the “2022/2023 Commonwealth Free Scholarship Programme that allows students to study, work and live in the United Kingdom” has been recirculated across WhatsApp groups.

Aside from travel expenses, student visa and work permit, accommodation and medical facilities, the post also promised beneficiaries “visa application assistance, no agent fee, 100% free course fee and paid internship”.

The message in circulation.

The message provides a link which users would click to commence registration. After clicking, the user is redirected to a page that requests bio-data.

The redirected page requesting users’ bio-data

Users are consequently asked to select current academic level, preferred program and preferred United Kingdom state, before being redirected to another page that asks them to “share (on WhatsApp) until the blue bar is full” before they can “generate visa form”. 

The page that is requesting users to share

On several occasions, DUBAWA has debunked similar ventures promising juicy returns, scholarships, loans and promos that at the end are fraudulent schemes meant to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.

Verification

DUBAWA first took notice of the irregularities of the alleged facebook comments that were showcased as testimonials of former successful candidates of the scheme. Although similar to that of Facebook, which displays names, pictures and the time people made their comments, three major red flags were noticed.

First, none of the items in the section was clickable; this means that the comments were not real since they carry no hyperlinks to trace their genuine source. Secondly,  the timeline for the comments  remains static, reading  “just now” for the first five comments and “2 mins ago” for the last comment, regardless of the time the page is visited. This is usually a forged comment meant to lure unsuspecting users. 

Forged comments of testimonials

Even more alarming is the fact that the alleged scheme promised potential applicants no IELTS requirement for the scholarships. The “International English Language Testing System” (IELTS)  is an examination that tests the “English Language proficiency of non-native English language speakers.” In order words, the examination is for the citizens of countries who use English as their second language. Nigeria is an example of such countries. It is thus natural for such a juicy off to raise an alarm such as can spark curiosity on the part of fact-checkers.

A close attention to the alleged website (UNITED KINGDOM FREE SCHOLARSHIPS 2022/2023 (enroll-now.online)) offering the scholarship differs from the actual Commonwealth’s Scholarship Commission website, “https://cscuk.fcdo.gov.uk/about-us/scholarships/

When DUBAWA also reached out to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) via an email regarding the accuracy of the circulating scholarship link, the commission confirmed that the link was not from them and that  it is not part of their scholarship programmes.  

“I can confirm the CSC offers a variety of scholarships to students wanting to study abroad. Each scholarship will provide unique opportunities and may have different levels of support.

“Some applications are still open, whilst others have unfortunately closed now. I will provide a link below to all the scholarships we offer so you can gain some more information about these opportunities.” 

Resultantly, the alleged link is confirmed to be an alien link and not a part of links sent by the CSC, nor does it share any affiliation with the commission.  

Links provided by CSC does not show the acclaimed link 

Furthermore, an analysis of the website on ScamDoc (a web tool that evaluates “digital identities’” reliability {email address or website} and provides answers to questions frequently asked by Internet users such as: How to check if a website is reliable or not? How to detect fraudulent emails?) reveals that the domain name is very recent (less than 6 months old) with a short life expectancy that is linked to one or more countries known for being used by fraudulent websites similar to websites DUBAWA had analyzed in the past.

Results of the analysis from ScamDoc

Furthermore, the website was also discovered to be malvertizing (a word that blends malware and advertising,  to refer to techniques cybercriminals use to target people covertly) by demanding users to share the link to groups on WhatsApp. ‘Malvertizing’ is carried out by buying ad space on trustworthy websites. While the ads may appear legitimate (as the one under scrutiny), there is a malicious code hidden inside them that redirects users to fraudulent websites or installs malware on their computers or mobile devices that keep bringing up notifications. 

Conclusion

The acclaimed link offering users Commonwealth scholarships is fraudulent and was created to deceive unsuspecting members of the public into falling victims of fraudulent schemes. This claim is false.  

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