Sophomore Sena Namkung said she was thrilled after receiving an email in October 2022 from Ithaca College’s biology department offering her a well-paying job. She later found out the offer was a phishing attempt, but not before falling prey to the scam.
“I’m really excited because it’s like a lot of money for work, and my friends were like, ‘I hate to tell you this, but I think it’s a scam,'” Namkung said. “I’ve been asked before and I’ve written a full-page article for [the scammers].”
Namkung’s experience is not unique – student inboxes are often the target of email scams promising high-paying jobs, which have recently posed as university employees. In Namkung’s case, she said the email she received was from someone claiming to be a recruiter for a remote administrative assistant position in the university’s biological sciences department. The Department of Biological Sciences does not exist in the college, but the Department of Biology does. The scammer claimed the job paid $350 a week and the email was signed by Williams Wenmouth, claimsing to be a professor and head of the department. Wenmouth williams is a true Professor Emeritus of the Department of Arts, Sciences and Media Studies. The scammer swapped Williams’ first and last name to sign the email.
According to CNBCa study carried out by an information security provider SlashNext said that in 2022 there was a 61% increase since 2021 in phishing attacks – where people online send a realistically deceptive email to obtain private information, such as financial details, from individuals in order to gain access to their computer and information systems. In July 2022, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) published an article warning students of the danger. The article highlighted the heightened risk college students face from these attacks due to their busy schedules and high expenses, making them an easier target than the general public.
According to the BBB, Iimpersonating an email is called spoofing; when is it scammers fake someone’s email address to send messages. Namkung said the emails sent to him had a contact card claiming to be “Ithaca Remote Employment”, but taking a closer look, the emails were sent from an unspecific Gmail account. According to the screenshot of the fraudulent e-mail provided to Ithaca by Namkung, email was sent by email@example.com
“People pretend to be [college] faculty,” Namkung said. “It could be extremely consequential and dangerous for the administration. … Why [is the college not] take measures to [protect faculty]?”
Namkung said she learned that she might be being scammed by her friends. In the end, she did, and wasted about $30 in promised remote work supplies.
“I have a $30 box of checks in my room,” Namkung said. “I don’t know what to do about it. That’s what they do: they will say they will reimburse you for the supplies.
According to BBBthe promise of refunds for supplies is a common theme among employment scams, and sometimes scammers send fake checks that take weeks to catch, often when it’s too late.
Mike Hanson, an information security engineer with the Office of Information Security and Access Management, said via email that scammers may attempt to direct targets outside of the email system. university by asking for personal phone numbers to avoid being tracked.
“We believe the attackers want to move the conversation from the IC messaging system to communication channels where IT is unable to detect or block future scams,” Hanson said via email.
In late fall 2022, the Information Technology (IT) Office emailed and Intercom announcement to students, warning them of the employment scams.
Jason Youngers, chief information security officer in the Office of Information Security and Access Management, said via email that the IT department routinely sends out alerts to the campus community about attempted breaches. phishing via Intercom and email.
“We try to send safety awareness messages to students, faculty and staff regularly enough to be helpful, but they don’t get loud that often,” Youngers said via email.
To combat this problem, some colleges, such as The University of South Carolina, began adding spoofing and phishing protection to their email systems. Youngers said Ithaca College is equipped with the latest Microsoft security technology, such as the A5 security suite, but did not confirm whether or not it matches that of the University of South Carolina.
Hanson advised students to be wary of emails asking for an urgent response or asking for personal information.
Lys Milkis in second year received an email from someone claiming to be President La Jerne Cornish. In the email, the scammer asked for Milkis’ personal cell phone number and said, “I need to get some important work done ASAP.” Milkis said she moved the email to her spam folder.
Although Milkis was not the victim of a phishing attempt, she said she owed it to her parents.
“My dad works in the tech industry, so I know what to look for in emails,” Milkis said. “The email was so poorly constructed that it was very obvious it was a scam.”
financial institutions, such as hunting bankfrequently warn their customers about the risks of identity theft, with many banks posting notices at the end of communications and on their websites. With the increase in employment scams targeting students, some colleges, such as the State University of New York at Buffalo, recently issued newsletters warning students. Ithaca College’s IT office lists similar information on its IT services portal, but its Publish was last updated almost three years ago and several images on the page are not loading.
Emails falsely advertising job opportunities aren’t the only risk students face, with some scammers attempting to steal personal information by posing as government agencies. According to Federal Student Aidsome of the latest email scams are often tied to the Biden administration’s student loan relief package.
Despite emails from the IT department alerting the campus community to scams, students, including Namkung, believe the university should be doing more. Namkung said she was grateful her experience wasn’t worse, but she wished she knew more about the risk.
“I really wish I was more aware of that,” Namkung said. “The college certainly doesn’t talk about it enough.”