COVID-19 Scams Now Targeting College Students
First, it was seniors. Now scam artists are using the pandemic to snag college students seeking financial aid.
“Billy” is a college junior. He’s supposed to be on campus attending his summer semester. You’ll find him at home instead, taking the semester’s course load online. “I get my work done, then I go fishing,” he cracked with a smile.
His email inbox reveals scammers have gone phishing, too.
There’s an unsolicited message there, claiming to be from the financial aid department of his school. It says he qualifies for a COVID-19 stimulus benefit for his tuition. All he has to do is click on the message’s link and provide his university login, password and other personal information.
“I thought it was a little weird that my school would send me an email requesting information that, one, was financially sensitive and two, was some information it issued me in the first place,” he said.
Smart guy, that Billy.
“It’s a phishing scam,” said Ari Lazarus, consumer education specialist for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). A phishing scam is an unsolicited contact, typically by email or text, that poses as a legitimate organization or agency in an attempt to trick consumers into clicking a link. “If you click to ‘log in,’ you could be giving your user name, password, or other personal information to scammers, while possibly downloading malware onto your device.”
Simple solution here, college students: if the electronic message is unsolicited — you did not initiate the contact with your university’s real financial aid department or whatever — it’s a scam, each and every time. Delete it and forget it.
“If you have concerns about an email, contact the sender directly,” Lazarus said. “Look up their phone number or website yourself. Don’t click on a link. That way, you’ll know you’re not about to call a scammer or follow a link that will download malware.”
Other clues to a college COVID-19 financial aid scam, according to the FTC:
- Bad grammar and misspellings
- The email address or phone number on the text does not match the college’s real text or email formats
- The alleged university department is the wrong name of the legitimate department (ex: ‘financial department’ instead of ‘financial aid department’)
- Any unreasonable request for personal or financial information
“Just because something pops up on my phone, I’m not going to willy-nilly click on it and give up that information,” Billy said. “I may be young, but I’m not stupid. I am in college, after all.”
Copyright 2020 Wise Choices TM. All rights reserved.
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