Scammers targeting UA students, officials say
Students at the University of Arizona have recently been spammed with an influx of scams coming through their university email addresses. These scams have fooled many students, causing them to lose up to thousands of dollars.
University Information Technology Services, or UITS, has been working hard to do everything they can to protect students.
“We are implementing up to ten new blocks a day, on top of manual blocks working with our email security company, but some emails are so targeted they don’t appear on any lists to block,” said Lanita Collette, UITS’s chief information security officer within its Information Security Office.
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According to Collette, it is important that students do not give out any personal information to the scammers.
“Once a student gives their personal information, there is nothing we can do then,” Collette said.
The email scams have caused unknowing students to lose hundreds of dollars, according to Collette. She has even had reports of students that have lost up to $3,000.
While the email scam is not just unique to UA, there has been a recent increase in these scams at the university.
The scam email itself will most likely appear as spam, but on some occasions it does not. According to a tweet released by the University of Arizona Police Department, it is typically displayed as an opportunity in some kind of job or internship and asks for direct information.
Once the student gives their direct information, the scammers are able to contact them personally and relay that they are sending a check that needs to be deposited in their bank account. After the check is deposited, the student is given directions to buy gift cards and send the information to the scammers. There is usually no contact after this and the check bounces, causing the student to lose all the money from their own personal account.
“If something is too good to be true, it probably is” Collette said, referring to the quick, hefty cash these emails promise.
On top of these email scams, there is also another scam that has been circulating the university that is much harder for them to block: a phone scam.
This scam is much more difficult to block since it has been coming through students’ personal cell phones. This scam is impersonating official organizations, agencies and university phone numbers, a scam technique also known as spoofing. Then, the caller asks for personal information in a scare tactic attempt, usually resulting in social security and identity theft scams.
Officials from UAPD said they have detectives actively investigating these scams. But cybercrime is considered very difficult to investigate, especially since UAPD has confirmed that the routers running these scams are originating from overseas.
“It’s not impossible to investigate, but it is more challenging for sure,” said UAPD public information officer Jesus Aguilar. “ The preventative side of it rests on people being informed and trusting your gut to see something for what it is.”
So what can students do to protect themselves from these dangerous scams? The consensus from the UAPD and UITS is that students need to be aware of these scams and report them if they have been affected by them.
Regarding the email scams, UITS suggests students just not interact with any suspicious emails from unsanctioned university addresses. Students should not give out any personal information, open attachments or follow links. Doing any of these things can reveal users’ private information or give their computer viruses.
As for the phone scams, UAPD’s advice was to simply hang up if the caller sounds suspicious or asks for personal information.
According to Aguilar, no official agencies or organizations will ever try to solicit information from or threaten a student. If students are suspicious of a caller ID, they can always call the organization back and make sure the call originated from them and not a scammer.
UITS has also reported the spoofing university offices’ official phone numbers to the Federal Communications Commission, but the best thing students can do is report to UAPD and their cell phone provider.
“The more people that report, the better,” Collette said.
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