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Identity Thieves Focus on College Students

There’s another COVID-19 phishing scam!

College students—famous for never being strapped for cash—are starting to see coronavirus phishing scams show up in their inboxes, according to a recent warning from the FTC.

As we’ve said more times than we care to count, identity thieves are shameless. Whether following a devastating hurricane or during a deadly pandemic, you can guarantee that these reptilian scammers will slither from under their rocks to take advantage of human misery.

Since this scam could threaten your clients or members of your staff who are working on a degree, we thought you might want to take a few minutes to brush up on the latest FTC warning.

What is the COVID-19 college scam?

The FTC says that scammers have begun sending phishing emails impersonating the “Financial Department” that claim to have information about the student’s pending Economic Impact Payment. As with other phishing scams, these emails contain links that point to an information-collecting page or simply install malware.

Since students routinely receive financial-aid notifications, it’s more likely that they might open these emails without thinking twice. That’s why the FTC also outlined some common threads shared by all phishing scams.

How do I know it’s a phishing email?

Government agencies routinely warn about phishing emails that are designed to steal victims’ personally identifiable information and money. It turns out that one of the skills commonly employed by college students can help them avoid falling victim to phishing scams: research.

Here are the tips the FTC laid out that can help students identify phishing scams:

  • Check it out. If you have concerns about an email, contact the sender directly. 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.
  • Take a closer look. While some phishing emails look completely legit, bad grammar and spelling can be a tip-off to phishing. Another clue that the email is not really from your school: they use the wrong department name. In one example we’ve seen, the scammers called themselves the Financial Dept instead of the Financial Aid Department.

Managing course loads, financial aid, and job applications can be stressful enough. Let’s make sure you clients and employees avoid adding “identity theft” to the list.

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