Don't take phishing for granted

Olivia Cain

Saturday 15th October is World Students’ Day 2016 – so what better time to discuss the frequent phishing scams increasingly being aimed at students?

Recently, a top 10 UK university was targeted by scammers in an effort to trick students in to handing over personal details in return for a student grant.

Phishing emails are becoming increasingly more sophisticated - in this case, students received an email to their university email address from what appeared to be the university finance department, informing them that they had won a bursary of £1,750.

Upon clicking the link, students were led to a website bearing the logo and crest of the university, as well as a form requesting personal information including their full name, and both home and term-time addresses. Once completed, the page redirected to a hacked website, which, to the untrained eye, would have been the first obvious sign of foul play.

These kinds of scams have been targeting universities for some time, and not just through the offer of fake grants or bursaries, but also counterfeited merchandise and, worse still, fake university degree certificates. There has even been reports of entirely fake universities that have offered places to foreign students in exchange for payment of ‘fees’.

Although we’d like to believe that most people wouldn’t fall for this type of scam (especially considering some phishing emails contain grammatical errors and a lack of personalization that one would expect from an official email), but in the run up to registration and placement at university, tensions run high and an unknowing student could quite easily fall in to a phishing trap. Especially as such scams target a point of concern for most students: money.

We think that it’s best that both students and universities are vigilant in their defences against such scams. If nothing else, we urge that people heed the old saying, ‘if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is’.