Binghamton University no stranger to phishing and other scams
Phishing and other forms of fraud have become rampant on U.S. college campuses in recent years, and Binghamton University is no stranger to these scams.
For years now Binghamton University students have been scammed out of thousands of dollars, according to Richard White, University police officer. While most scams target the elderly, White said anyone can fall victim, as those committing the scams are knowledgeable about how to manipulate their targeted demographic.
For instance, students are typically susceptible to fake job offer scams, and international students are targeted for scams where someone threatens deportation or arrest if they don’t send their personal information or payment. Even Binghamton University professors were targeted for a scam that involved the individuals’ supervisor or colleague asking them to send a gift card or other form of payment. In addition to these, phishing, sex scams and fake check scams have also been prominent around college campuses.
But how do these scams get so out of hand?
“Based on some of the reports that I’ve taken and read, victims are either too quick to act in an effort to help a ‘colleague or boss,’ in the case of faculty and staff; or victims are under stress, in the case of students,” White said. “Unfortunately, despite an increased effort to educate people on scams, the message doesn’t always reach the people it needs to. In addition, some people can be dismissive of the message, as they maintain an ‘it will never happen to me’ attitude or an ‘I would never fall for something like that’ attitude.”
Although it may seem like common sense to avoid fraud and scams, they are more successful than you would think. According to Binghamton’s University Police Department (UPD), phone scams had a 27% success rate, while email scams had a 33% success rate. Unfortunately, the more people fall for scams, the more scammers will try to manipulate people.
“As far as why scams are so common, it’s because people fall victim to them. As such, because there are possible victims, there will always be people looking to victimize them,” White said. “For the scammers, at least the most successful ones, I’d imagine they have it all down to numbers, just like a salesperson. A good salesperson knows that they need to speak to X number of people before they get a sale.”
Fortunately, Binghamton University is working to inform students about current frauds and scams while also providing resources to help students protect themselves. UPD is developing a website to help spread awareness about the most significant scams impacting the University, and Information Technology Services (ITS) implemented the “[External Email]” tag in the subject line of emails to help users quickly identify messages from potentially malicious senders.
“ITS has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of reported impersonation phishing campaigns on campus,” said Stephen Safranek, infrastructure and security analyst at ITS. “Phishing messages that targeted deans or department chairs were one of the most common types of phishing we would see reported. Since implementing the external tag in 2020, we have seen these impersonation attempts drop off significantly.”
Along with these resources, there are other ways students and faculty can protect themselves from scams.
“The best ways everyone on campus can best protect themselves from fraud and scams is to always seek out the latest information regarding current scams, take a ‘step back’ and think and analyze any time they think they’re being scammed. And, if they ever have any questions, to call UPD at 607-777-2393 or stop by the UPD station,” White said. “Two great websites to reference are oig.ssa.gov/scam and ftc.gov/scams. The FTC website has a sign-up form to receive emails detailing the most current scams across the country.”
Safranek also suggests that people enable two-step verification, verify who they are in contact with and carefully review any questionable messages they receive.
“These scams are not just through email. These criminals use texts, phone calls, postal mail, social media, any way they can start a conversation,” Safranek said. “Question any unsolicited message for employment, and treat communication received from unknown parties as suspicious. The old adage of ‘if it seems too good to be true, it probably is’ holds true with these high-pay, work-remotely job offers.”