Many of us who have maximized and used the Internet is quite confident in determining precautionary measures to prevent being scammed or being at risk of fraud. We know what it means with being online, subscribing to newsletters and sending our applications through forms or email, especially, if we would like to enroll in online education and qualify for scholarships. Until, despite all that you know and the actions you’ve taken, become a victim, yourself.
Fraudsters, similar to us, users, are adaptive and are becoming more vigilant in their efforts of either stealing your personal information or cheating you out of your hard-earned money for college. Below are 5 basic but critical fraud tactics that you must be wary of:
Spoofing refers to copied websites that appear legitimate or exactly the same. What happens here is the spoofed website requires you to input your personal information, bank information or simply, log in with your username/password to mimic your normal procedure with the regular site. The spoofer will then have access to the information you entered and use it for identity theft or if they can, simulate procedures to clean your bank account.
You may say that this seems to be too much of an effort, especially for education related websites. You can never know, though. Fraudsters target any industry that has a wide market reach and the US alone, there are an estimated 15 million potential graduating students who are actively researching and willing to provide their personal information to save money for college or qualify for scholarships. The market for online education opens it to a global market and the number of potential victims increases.
Phishing is the word used to refer to efforts to get sensitive information including but not limited to personal details, username, passwords and credit card or bank information. This fraudulent tactic is usually completed through electronic communication such as email or instant messaging. The idea is a victim receives a legitimate looking email coming from an organization, a CEO or say, a scholarship advisor informing you of winning a grant, a scholarship or being eligible to a certain benefit and all you need to do is to complete a form accessible to a certain link. The phishing email normally uses a combination of “email spoofing” where the email address is masked (ie, says the name of the provider and does not display the actual email address) or if it is not masked, the email address is very close to the name of the provider, and “website spoofing” discussed previously.
3. Link Manipulation
This is a play of characters on the URL and easy to miss. As mentioned in phishing and spoofing, to influence your decision to trust a certain message, the website’s URL and email address try its best to appear legitimate. For example, if the original website is scholarships.com, the spoofed website may be something like shcolarships.com (interchanged c and h) or maybe, if the original website is scholarships.com, the fake website is scholarships.info.
The idea remains the same, fraudsters try to mislead you In order to steal your information.
4. Fake News and Social Engineering
What this does is to create news or content that makes you want to click on the link. The content may be fake news (about a celebrity or about the most mundane thing), something that is easy to share through social media. It includes being directed to pop-ups that require your registration or personal information.
This is the most common and most cumbersome as it works like a virus. The goal, however, is to steal your information or use click fraud (where the software runs in the background pretends that it is clicking on the ads or campaigns so that the fraudster benefits from it.
When you are focused on your goal which is your online education and when you’re looking for something in particular like scholarships to save money for college, it is very easy to fall into fraudster tactics or scams. Taking action, being wary and being knowledgeable will help you prevent it.