Student-Related Phishing Scams: An UPDATE
Important LINKS for reference:
Being a student is stressful in so many ways. Beyond the academic challenges students face daily, there is also the financial aspect of education which can be a huge burden. Cybercriminals, now more than ever, are attempting to exploit this aspect of student’s lives. Parents and students alike should be aware of the many scams affecting thousands of students today. Some of these scams can appear quite authentic, and will pressure students into providing personal information in order to exploit them. This link from consumer.ftc.gov is very helpful: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/got-student-loan-debt-read.
Here are some of the more major scams you should be aware of:
1. CARES Act Scam
As COVID-19 has been affecting millions of people worldwide, students are no exception. The CARES Act is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act intended to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Thousands of students across the nation are receiving CARES Act grants to help reduce the impact of COVID-19; as part of the CARES Act, individuals impacted by the crisis will receive payments from the government. In turn, cybercriminals are attempting to disrupt those payments.
If you are receiving compensation from the CARES Act, be sure to be especially cautious of unexpected emails. Be aware that federal, state, and local governments will not require you to pay any fees related to the CARES Act grants, nor will they ask for your social security number, credit card number, or any other personal, sensitive information. If you receive any phishy emails regarding your CARES Act grant, be sure to report it to either your university or administrator. For Binghamton University students, you can report any scams that you receive to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Student Loan Relief
Many students are able to afford college only through the help of student loans. Needless to say, they are very important to a student's education. Some companies are trying to take advantage of this fact by offering “student loan relief,” boasting of services that will lower or eradicate your student loans (and may claim it is part of the Government Stimulus). Put plainly, these companies are setting up unrealistic expectations and are offering things they simply can’t deliver. In addition, many charge illegal upfront and monthly fees, which can add up to thousands of dollars.
If you are struggling with your student loans, you can visit the Federal Student Aid website to access information on how to apply for temporary relief or lower your payments. If you have private loans, contact your loan servicer. Do not use any outside services to handle your student loans before checking their validity. It could very easily be a scam, and end up costing you more money in the long run.
3. Chronicle of Higher Education Scam
Recently, a large number of Chronicle of Higher Education credentials were found available on the dark web. Over 800 people using a binghamton.edu email address are included in this exposure. If you have a Chronicle of Higher Education account, you should change your password as soon as possible. Remember to not reuse passwords, and if you have used the same passwords for other accounts to change those as well.
4. Phone Scams
Don’t be fooled, as phishing scams can come in all shapes and sizes. Phone scams have been increasing in popularity recently, particularly with regard to the CARES Act. A message from a woman called Susan Arnold states that your student loan may be eligible for the stimulus forgiveness and relief legislation. Don’t be fooled, any information about your student loans would come directly from the Federal Student Aid US Department of Education, or your private loan servicer. Here is her full message:
Hi this is Susan Arnold the agent is 24892. Looks like your student loan has been flagged eligible for the recent stimulus forgiveness and relief legislation. However your application needs to be completed. This still applies to all Loan Services including loans in default and garnishment. If you could please call the dedicated eligibility line at 202-935-1300. We can have this applied immediately. Keep in mind the benefits are offered on a first come first serve basis. Again the eligibility line is 202-935-1300. Make sure to supply your personal validation code 24932. When calling in. Hope this helps and have a great day.
It is important to be aware of these scams and to spread awareness, as they can really do a lot of damage to those they impact. Remember to not store any personally-identifiable information about yourself or others on your PC, even though it may be convenient to do so. If you must keep personal information on your computer, be sure that it is properly protected. Don’t allow anyone to access your computer in your absence, manage your passwords, and password protect and encrypt sensitive data files and customer information. For more information on how to keep your information safe and secure, visit Binghamton University’s Guideline for Data Security.
Stay up to date on the latest phishing scams by regularly reviewing the ITS Phishing page and Phish Tank: https://binghamton.edu/its/phishing
Report any suspicious emails to email@example.com. Please contact the ITS Help Desk at 607-777-6420 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.