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Be Alert for Cybersecurity Scams as the School Year Begins
Author: Esther Silver
The link to the IT Security Awareness Quiz is at the end of the article. Everyone who completes the quiz is entered to win one of six $50 Amazon gift cards.
The new school year is an exciting time for students, faculty, and staff. It’s also an exciting time for hackers, identity thieves, and other unscrupulous types who take advantage of people during this busy time of year. Schools in general already had significant cybersecurity issues and, according to Wired Magazine, things have become worse with COVID-19. With so many people working remotely, the pandemic has amplified these issues making it especially important to be vigilant this year.
Watch out for typical beginning-of-the-school-year scams:
- Emails supposedly containing “a problem with registration”
- Scams specifically designed to cheat students out of money, such as scholarship scams, fake “tuition payment processors”, textbook rental or book-buying scams, housing scams, tutoring scams, and work-from-home scams
- IRS impersonators demanding that students or their parents wire money immediately to pay a fake "federal student tax"
- Messages with links to fake login pages
- Messages asking for your login information, no matter how legitimate they may look - nobody other than you needs to know your passwords
- Fake friend requests on social media
- Fake Box or Google Docs notices
How to stay safe:
The best way to avoid scams is to approach all unexpected messages, offers, and phone calls with a healthy skepticism. Helpful habits include:
- Always think twice before clicking on links or opening attachments, even if they look like they're from someone you know. If you’re not sure, contact the sender by a different method you know is legitimate to confirm they sent it (e.g., they send an email, you make a phone call).
- Verify requests for private information. Remember, con artists know how to fake their identities.
- Protect your passwords. Make them long and strong, never reveal them to anyone, and use different passwords for different accounts. Also use multi-factor authentication (MFA) whenever possible.
- Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information: COVID-19 scams targeting college students
- (Info from the IRS about fake "federal student tax" from 2016 but still current): IRS warns of latest scam variation involving bogus federal student tax
- Fraud.org: Back to school scams (end of the article)
- Forbes: Scam alert avoid college payment processors
- Federal Student Aid: Avoiding Student Aid Scams
- Wired Magazine: Schools Already Struggled with Cybersecurity. Then Came Covid-19
- Education Week: School Reopenings Bring Wave of COVID-19 Student-Data-Privacy Concerns
- Attorney General: Beware of Scams targeting College and Graduate Students
- Homeland Security: Scams Targeting International Students Are on the Rise
- BBB Tip: Back to school shopping for tech supplies
- Norton: 6 back-to-school scams and how to avoid them
Take the quiz on this article. The prize for passing the quiz is one entry in a drawing for one of six Amazon $50 gift cards.
Team Lead: Patrick Phelan