January 22, 2020

College Call Spoofing Scams Target Students and Institutions

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College Call Spoofing Scams

Did your students complain of receiving calls appearing to be coming from the university numbers? College call spoofing has been on the rise, and both the institutions and their students have had to dodge the bullet, sometimes unsuccessfully.

Scammers find creative ways to target their victims while disguising as a credible university numbers. Other callers have mastered the art of impersonating as legitimate callers outside the university. The majority of these scammers pose as employers, sponsors, debt collectors, or even government agencies to scam students millions of dollars.

What Are the Types of Phone Scams Targeting Colleges and Students?

Scammers use spoofing tricks to lure students. Students are ideal targets for scammers in many ways. Many students are learning to be independent for the first time and have some money. Being centralized at educational institutes also makes it easier for scammers to contact them.

Naturally, the average college or university student is seeking employment, money, or good grades. College call spoofing incidents revolve around jobs, internships, scholarships, housing, etc. Below are some of the phone scams targeting colleges and students;

Employment

How about a few bucks for students while still learning their favorite courses? Many call spoofing scams relate to employment offers and internships. Scammers masquerading as legitimate employers offer job opportunities to the already desperate students. While some students might figure it out quickly, many end up giving out personal information through CVs and application letters.

Housing Scams

Housing has always been an issue when it comes to college students. Spoofers use the problem of house shortage as a tool for spamming students. They spoof housing agents to extort payments from unsuspecting students. One prevalent scam involves seeking deposits for house reservations or even the full rental charges.

Tuition Scam

Scammers who claim to be behind tuition programs go to the extent of posing as lecturers or tutors threaten students of being dropped from their classes unless they make some payment. In many cases, the scammers demand credit card payments.

Sponsorships and Scholarships

Have your students complained of scholarships gone wrong or sponsors who withdrew at the last minute? This is a common scam affecting American colleges. Scammers pose as sponsors and use this opportunity to extort millions from college students.

A scammer might spoof numbers belonging to legit sponsors. Most of them inquire about personal information, bank and credit card details, and education credentials. As such, many students become victims of scams while seeking scholarships.

Cases of Call Spoofing Scams at Universities

Many universities and colleges have endured different forms of caller ID spoofing. Below are some instances involving top institutions;

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, VUMC

In September 2017, the customer service line number experienced an extraordinarily large amount of calls. Within a short period, medical officers identified a possible caller ID Spoofing incident. Majority of individuals reported to have received calls appearing to be from VUMC, urging them to pay bills such as student loans and credit cards.

However, due to a lack of accurate numbers, a large percentage of the calls went to people outside the institution, who helped unearth the scandal. VUMC reported the scam to the relevant authorities and informed the public on how to avoid being scammed.

Penn State Police Spoofing

Penn State Police department had to bear the wrath of illegal call spoofers. In October 2019, a scammer spoofed the phone number belonging to the University Park police. The scammers used a false caller ID to hide identity and impersonate police officers and demand money while threatening jail terms for those who would not comply.

FBI Student Loan Call Spoofing Scam

The FBI has been caught up in rare college call spoofing incidents. Scammers also target such institutions because they wield enough power to intimidate students.

In September 2017, the FBI Omaha Division warned students in Nebraska and Iowa of spoofing of the FBI’s telephone number. In the statement, the FBI confirmed to have received reports of multiple spoofed calls in at least eight states.

The caller, claiming to be an FBI agent, demanded payment for tuition and school loans. The caller threatened that victims might not graduate from school or might face jail time. Scammers were requesting payments to be made through MoneyGram and not the school’s payment channels. The scammers had spoofed phone numbers for FBI offices in Iowa, Nebraska, South and North Carolina, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Georgia.

In another incident, FBI Denver Division warned of scammers spoofing the bureau’s numbers to trick and intimidate victims. It turns out, scammers were spoofing the Bureau’s number, 303 629-7171, in an attempt to collect money.

In their report, the FBI warned of the scammers threatening citizens with jail terms in case they failed to comply with their directives. The bureau also advised the public against giving out any personal information, including bank details and credit cards.

How Are Colleges Trying to Combat Call Spoofing?

With the rise of college call spoofing incidents, devising methods to combat these menaces became imperative. These are some of the ways in which colleges deal with caller ID spoofing:

Providing Information to Students on How to Avoid Scams

Keeping students informed is perhaps the best way to combat college call spoofing. Colleges have so far identified the possible methods used by scammers on students. Majority of callers exploit the following methods to scam students;

  • Tuition
  • Fees Payments
  • Housing
  • Student loans
  • Job Opportunities
  • Scholarships

Colleges advise students not to engage with the caller in case they receive such calls. They encouraged students to hang up and call back the provided institution’s phone numbers. Also, institutions advised students to avail themselves in person in case they receive calls on matters appertaining to the institution.

Developing Call Blocking Apps

University of Washington’s IT department created a call blocking app to help reduce an influx of spam calls. As it turns out, they were a victim of call spoofing. In one day, the university blocked 29,000 calls. Some blocked calls, however, appeared to be coming from legitimate university numbers. Genuine phone numbers had been spoofed thus ending up being marked “spam likely.”

Callee-only Inference and Verification

Purdue University published an article on how to combat caller ID spoofing on 4G mobile phones. In the paper, the University proposed the CEIVE (Callee-only Inference and Verification), a strategy to combat spoofing. This technology requires additional infrastructure support and changes in the telephony systems.

In this formulated design, CEIVE infers the state and information regarding the caller. It provides a method of verifying if the call is originating from the original number or whether it’s spoofed. This would give the recipient the chance to verify the legitimacy of the caller and decide whether to receive or decline the call.

What are the Instances in Which Colleges Call Students?

In some cases, though, colleges need to get a hold of their students. These may range from:

  • Enrollment Process
  • Admissions
  • Financial Aid
  • Academic Information
  • Orientation
  • Counselors / Appointments

If a college is the victim of call spoofing, their numbers may be flagged as spam or scam likely. This makes it harder to relay relevant information to their students, leaving some in the dark. Getting their numbers flagged from spoofers is detrimental and can affect service delivery.

Safeguarding Phone Numbers from Illegal College Call Spoofing

Colleges have to protect students from illegal spoofing. The Caller ID Reputation software helps university call center managers to scan their numbers and identify if they are appearing as “scam likely.” The software helps keep your numbers in check and act accordingly should any spoofing instance arise.