What you need to know to stay safe
It’s already time to head back to school, and many parents and students are in a hurry to buy all the necessary gear. While many are shopping for backpacks, notebooks, and the perfect set of pens, would-be scammers are hard at work, too, sending out back-to-school phishing scams looking to garner money, personal information, and payroll information. Schools, during the summer, are heavily canvased by hackers and scammers, allege experts. So, while you might be hitting the aisles for school supplies, it is a good idea to educate yourself on the latest scams.
Human Resources and Payroll Scams
School districts across the country are the target of a phishing scam that utilizes a spoofed email address to appear to be official business. According to recent reports, several school districts have received emails that appear to be from the IRS. The emails request payroll data and sensitive information about both employees and, in some cases, students. The scam began in March, alleging that there have been troubles with the tax filings for employees. Uninformed payroll and HR professionals have unwittingly sent sensitive data to the scammers, according to the most recent reports.
The IRS has recently issued a statement informing the public that they will never request data and information via email. Any personal issues with tax refunds, forms, or payroll issues will be dealt with via certified mail. If you receive an email of this nature, you are encouraged to send a tip to the IRS. You can also contact your local police department’s cybercrime unit.
Student Loan Phishing
College students are particularly targeted by phishing scams. According to recent reports, several phishing scams are targeting students, particularly those with student loans, in an attempt to garner personal identifying information.
On the University of North Dakota campus, students have received suspicious emails, and in some cases, phone calls, by an individual or group of people claiming to be student loan officers on campus. They are being asked to provide their Social Security numbers, addresses, and other identifying information. The ploy preys on students’ need for funding and alleges that if they don’t provide the data, their student loans will be rejected, and their classes will be dropped from the system.
It is hard to say how many students have been affected, or have shared their personal data, but experts warn that the University of North Dakota isn’t the only campus seeing an uptick in these scams. If you’ve been contacted via an email that alleges to be from the school, it is best to call the number directly listed on the campus’ website, or visit the Bursar office in person. School officials will never ask for Social Security numbers, student ID numbers or other identifying information via email.
Brown University has also begun warning students about a scam targeting undergraduates looking for work. The scam includes the emailing and posting of administrative jobs to students. The student is asked to complete basic administrative tasks, then is sent a check and asked to deposit in their personal account before sending a portion of that check on to a vendor. The checks are fraudulent, and the funds are eventually removed from the student’s account with no way of redeeming the money that has been sent to an outside vendor.
Brown University and other colleges are warning students to avoid job postings that do not request a resume or appear to be too good to be true. Students should never accept a check for a greater amount than they’ve agreed to be compensated for, and should never forward funds onto a third party for a company they believe they are employed by. This type of scam is common and has been around for decades. Before you take any job, it is important to check the company’s history and reviews.
These back to school phishing scams are certainly problematic, but it isn’t the only time of year such things happen. It is important to stay vigilant year-round, and do remember that no legitimate business or government entity will ever request your Social Security number over email. Check correspondence carefully, and when in doubt, call the company the scammer is posing as to see if the claims are legitimate. The more these scams are reported, the quicker they can be shut down.