The start of a new school year is a time when cybercriminals target students as they return to their classrooms and dorms. One of the most prominent methods of attack is phishing, which uses email, text messages, or phone calls to lure students into divulging sensitive information. These communications often look like they’re coming from a trusted source but are actually sent by scammers seeking to access bank accounts, credit cards, login credentials, or other confidential data. This time of year requires increased awareness of these attempts to steal personal information.
Common back-to-school scams, how they work, and how to help thwart the scammers behind them:
Going back to school can be expensive, and both students and parents are often bargain hunting. Scammers know this and will set up phony websites offering low-cost school supplies, but when consumers complete their purchases, the items never arrive. The scammers now have your credit card information and can use it to make fraudulent purchases.
College students often need some type of employment to supplement their income. Knowing this, cybercriminals offer hopeful candidates seemingly ideal job opportunities with the intention of stealing money, identity, and personal information. They often spoof legitimate companies’ websites and real people’s email addresses to make the offers more realistic.
The student tax
The student tax scam is a popular one for students heading to college. A student or parent receives an email, text, or phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent. This message says the student never paid his or her student tax and warns of severe penalties for failure to pay. The “IRS agent” then attempts to collect payment via wire transfer, electronic check, or credit card. There is no such thing as a student tax.
School can be expensive and scholarship dollars are enticing, and as a result, scholarship scams are popular. In one type of scholarship scam, cybercriminals ask for an application fee. The fee might not be large, but if scammers get enough people to pay this fee the profits can add up. The scammers then award very few or no scholarships. Other scams may claim you have won a scholarship, but you need to pay a redemption or disbursement fee before you can collect your thousands of dollars in free money.
Student loan forgiveness scam
Scammers prey on both students’ and parents’ fears when it comes to the high cost of tuition. Scammers ask for victims’ personal or financial information to start the loan forgiveness process. They use this information to take out loans or credit cards in the victims’ names, access their bank accounts, or run up fraudulent credit card charges
How to avoid falling for back-to-school scams or other phishing attacks:
- Think before you share: Never share direct deposit details, credit card numbers, or personal information such as your Social Security number on an unfamiliar website.
- Pause before you click: If anything seems unusual, do not click links or open attachments.
- Verify the request: If you receive an email from the University asking for urgent action, question its legitimacy. If you’re not sure, contact the appropriate office directly to verify the request.
- Report threats: ITS can investigate incidents and take action to prevent similar future threats. If you receive a phishing email, report it on the ITS Service Portal.