February 22, 2023

Higher Education: How To Keep Your Students Safe From Scammers

Scammers and call spoofers target all types of consumers. No place is safe from their reach, including higher education institutions. In fact, they are prime targets for scammers and call spoofing because they are trusted, well-known organizations.

Higher Education: How To Keep Your Students Safe From Scammers

Many students are young and have less experience handling these bad actors than some other demographic groups. You need to help protect them from the many phone predators out to steal their money or identity. Keeping your students safe is essential to maintaining your reputation and providing a safe educational environment. 

Four Main Types of Student Fraud

Students in higher education tend to experience higher levels of fraudulent calls than other consumers. The four main fraud calls include the following types:

  • Social Engineering: These calls are used to gather organizational information that can be used as an attack on the university as a whole. The caller gathers data such as names, phone numbers, and emails for the students and faculty. They may also ask for computer system information and reporting practices.
  • Vishing: Scammers often use various methods, including spoofed calls, to appear as trusted callers. They then use this trust to get sensitive information from the call recipient such as their SSN, bank account number, etc. and use that data for illegal purposes.
  • Call Spoofing: Scammers and spammers use software to mask the origin of their calls. Their calls look like local calls or ones from a trusted organization, resulting in a higher answer rate.
  • Robocalls: Robocalls are those often pre-recorded calls that plague most consumers. They are auto-dialed calls, produced in huge numbers in order to sell a product or service. Some of these products are legitimate — many are not. Despite recent legislative efforts, consumers are still besieged by robocalls in the U.S. and globally.

These calls prey on the vulnerable and also cause issues with faculty and staff. They tie up phone systems and waste valuable time and resources. 

Scammers Target Licensed Professionals

Graduation from a higher learning institution does not end the harassment. Alumni of higher education are still vulnerable to scammers. In 2021, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) announced they had identified scammers pretending to be staff members and targeting licensed professionals.

Scammers were calling these professionals, including doctors and pharmacists, posing as employees or as law enforcement officers. They told their targets that their professional license had been suspended and that they must share their SSN and make an immediate bond payment to end the suspension and prevent more fines. 

This scam serves to remind everyone not to share their SSN unless they initiate contact with an organization that requires they give one. Also, state and federal governments do not notify consumers of punitive actions over the phone. 

Student Loan Scams

With the student loan forgiveness plan, many have become targets for scammers. Malicious actors are targeting individuals seeking student loan relief in an attempt to steal SSNs. Many with student debt do not realize that the Biden administration’s debt forgiveness plan is currently tied up in the courts. They are not accepting applications at this time. 

Scammers understand that millions are burdened with high educational loan amounts and are desperate to reduce their financial obligation. So they find it easier to make their fake applications work, gathering consumers' sensitive financial information and using it to make money.

Protecting Your Students and Alumni

Higher educational institutions need to shield their students and alumni from these bad actors. You can do so by staying vigilant and keeping them informed of any potential scams. Below are some steps you can take to protect your students.

Inform Students

Information can help prevent students from getting scammed. Provide your students with safe guidelines on how to contact your institution. Let them be aware of any known scams targeting students. You can easily add this information to monthly newsletters and regular student bulletins. Also, be certain to provide them with a resource to report suspicious behavior.

Use the DNO Registry

Register your inbound-only numbers on a DNO registry. This act can prevent scammers from spoofing these numbers to target consumers. It works by preventing any registered inbound-only call to be used as an outbound number. If a scammer tries it, the registered number will be instantly blocked. 

Maintain Accurate Caller IDs

Another protective measure is to ensure that your outbound numbers have an accurate caller ID. When your call goes through without flags or negative labels, it helps improve answer rates by allowing students to trust your calls. Then you can maintain good communication with your students and alumni. 

Vigilance in Higher Education Institutions

Scammers and spammers consider higher education institutions rich targets for their illegitimate practices. Students are often deferential to authority and may be more trusting of inbound calls than some consumer groups. The institution’s own communication networks may also fall victim to a flood of time-wasting robocalls. 

If you work for or with higher education institutions, you need to create a plan to thwart these callers and protect your students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Implementing a few common-sense policies will help lessen the power of bad actors. 

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