The last group of college students has headed off to school for another semester of dorm rooms, late-night library sessions, and the occasional college party. For many students, college is the first time they’ve lived away from home. They are young, open to new things, and sometimes, naïve. These traits make them prime targets for scams.
- Fake College Websites
Here’s how this works. Scammers copy a college’s website but use a fictitious name on the site (in essence creating a spoofed site). They use this site to collect application fees and gather personal information. They even go so far as to send out rejection letters to applicants to try and “maintain” their credibility. But all this application will get you is financial loss and the potential to be victim for future phishing scams.
- Diploma Mills
These are unaccredited colleges or universities that provide illegal degrees and diplomas for money. Many spoofed college websites are also used as diploma mills. Though some diploma mills may require students to buy books, do homework and even take tests, the student will be passed no matter what. In some cases, users get a diploma simply by purchasing it. In any case, you’re out of money and have no valid diploma.
- Fake Scholarships
Let’s face it. College is not cheap. Therefore, many students look for scholarships to help ease the financial cost. Scammers profit on this need by creating fake scholarships, which require you to submit a fee when applying for the money. You never see a dime and you’ve lost that application fee as well as given up some of your personal info.
- Wi-Fi Scams
Computers are an essential part of the college experience and wi-fi connectivity is a necessity. So while you may not want to pay or can’t afford to pay for wi-fi connectivity, you need to be careful when using free wi-fi as hackers can easily intercept your communications.
So while college is a time to learn and experience new things, you also want to avoid getting scammed. So here’s some tips on how to make sure you don’t get taken by one of these scams:
- To protect yourself, develop the habit of not giving personal information to strangers and double check the authenticity of the organization.
- Before sending in any online application, double check the accreditation for any college or university. In the United States, you can do that on the Department of Education site.
- Verify that a scholarship is valid, by checking with an organization like FinAid.org.
- Avoid doing any sensitive transactions like shopping or banking when using free wi-fi connections.
Yes, there are plenty of scams out there. But with common sense and a willingness to double-check, students can avoid being lured in.
Have a great school year!
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.