How Online COVID-19 Scams are Affecting College Students

Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve all dramatically adjusted our lives in ways that many would have never anticipated. Social distancing and quarantining in the modern era has not only meant completely altering our social lives, but our academic and work lives as well. This is something that many of you college students are still adapting to, myself included.

If college wasn’t already hard enough, instead of attending lectures, labs, and studios, you’re now attempting to complete your semesters solely with online resources. And if there’s one thing we all know that’s a sure-fire recipe for disaster, it’s leaving college students alone on the internet. With so many people depending on online communication resources more than ever before, cybercrime’s presence within students’ lives is more prevalent than ever.

Cyber-criminals are clever, malicious, and conniving and they will often use phishing scams to obtain personal information through electronic communication by disguising as a trustworthy establishment. This enables them to pose as professional organizations, like your schools and universities, to lure unsuspecting victims to provide the information necessary to rob you of what little money you have left after paying tuition, housing, and your monthly Spotify and Netflix subscriptions. 

With the uncertainty of how online classes will impact room and board, tuition, and other university expenses, cyber-criminals feed off this time of confusion and panic by using COVID-19 related scams that lead to theft. Student loan forgiveness emails are just one example of education-related scams. These emails pose as federal financial aid, claiming to get students out of debt by paying a small fee and providing financial information. Cybercriminals work hard to make their scams seem legitimate and as good as some of these scams may appear, if it seems too good to be true – sadly, it probably is.

Scams are not the only concerns for online users though. Recently, online communication programs run the risk of having meetings being recorded, stored and made accessible to third-parties. Zoom has been the center of attention lately when it comes to cybersecurity and privacy scandals. Cybersecurity issues with video conferencing means that some private meetings and information said in online meetings, may not be completely private. It’s important to watch what you say over online calls to ensure information being said is not used by third-parties who may have access.

In addition to privacy concerns, video-conference hacking or “Zoom-bombing” is another snafu online communication platforms are dealing with. “Zoom-bombing” is when someone hacks into a video conference causing issues within the video conference. The last thing you need is for your high profile meeting to be shut down due to graphic material being screen-shared to each member, as was the case with a recent Chipotle broadcast. Pornography in your professor’s lecture or a virtually administered exam would not only be a horrible event at the moment but could have a lasting impact on your educational endeavors, forcing the process to be more drawn out by being shifted to yet another platform or format.

While most of you may be smarter than The Office’s Michael Scott and aren’t lured by internet scams once every hour, chances are that now more than ever, you’re going to encounter ever-present romance or job scams. The term “catfishing” is commonplace in our modern vernacular (thanks MTV) but that doesn’t mean that many people every year are not still affected by it. As lonely as you may be in your socially distanced life, sharing your personal information through online dating is always a high-risk activity. The same thing can be said for an enticing but misleading job offer, taking advantage of the fact that so many people are laid-off from their usual work.

If you do encounter a COVID-19 scam, CSN provides the public with resources to report and recover by utilizing the CSN resource database FraudSupport.org. Whether you’re seeking to recover the remnants of your desolate social life, jump on a timely and suspicious financial offer in your email, or your next video conference call on Zoom is raided by unwanted trolls, we’re here to offer you the help you’ll need. Stay informed on the world of cybercrime and how CSN can help by following us at @cybersupportnet.