Both NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland have issued warnings that scammers are aggressively targeting students, just when the new academic year is commencing. If you are a student in Exeter, Edinburgh or York, recent surveys indicate that four out of five students are being hit up with everything from deliberate phishing scams to requests for fees for undelivered packages.
If you are fortunate enough to be in Glasgow, the numbers are high, but not as high as in other locales. Only three in five students have been contacted in that city.
Andy Nicholson, head of NatWest student accounts, stated: “This year’s NatWest student living index reveals that a large number of students are being targeted by criminals. In raising awareness of these types of scams we hope students can avoid becoming a victim.”
Why are these attacks so prevalent in the student community?
The nature of these ruses has not changed from traditional schemes along these lines. The primary objective is to obtain private identity information, which might include your name, date of birth, address, contact information, and even payment card details.
What happens next? One article on the topic noted: “Scams where criminals pretend to be from banks, offer investments, advertise fake goods on social media or encourage people to become money mules were also among those that students had encountered. Some had also experienced criminals trying to hack their shopping or entertainment accounts.”
Why students? Organised crime is very organised. Once information is obtained, these lists are sold on the Dark Net for further monetisation. Students also spend a great deal of time online taking virtual classes or, during the summer months, actively visiting a number of questionable websites, especially those that offer free services. However, ‘free’ comes at a price. These sites cover costs by selling your information to the highest bidder.
A few weeks later, you may be inundated with text messages, emails, or even direct phone solicitations. Many will claim that a package is waiting for you. If you click the link, malware will most likely be installed upon your access device, which will forward future keystroke information to the crooks for further analysis. If you are lucky, you will only be asked to forward a fee to receive your package. Do not hold your breath waiting for that package to arrive.
How does one avoid these attacks?
First, always be wary of unsolicited text messages, emails or phone calls. Do not be tempted to click on the links provided. Avoid questionable websites. Crooks are also adept at cloning legitimate websites to pose as a bank, a school or even the tax collector. Also, beware of all deals that look too good to be true or have a celebrity endorsement that does not ring true. Lastly, never give away your personal information, even when free coupons are offered.
The academic year has begun, and students are being targeted by scam artists like never before. Concerns over COVID-19 have led to increased virtual activity, which has only played into the hands of today’s modern fraudsters. Be vigilant online, and be wary of any unwanted solicitations.
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