Phishing Schemes Targeting College Students: What You Need to Know

The Federal Trade Commission received fraud reports from 2.6 million people in 2023. Overall, people who fell into scam nets had a total loss of $10 billion, a 14% increase compared to 2022, with phishing being called the most common type of fraud these days.

Given the rising cybersecurity concerns, we have to spread awareness about the growing importance of digital literacy and safety, particularly among essay writers and college students. These groups typically lack the life experience to identify and resist scammy schemes. So, if you’re currently in college or involved in academic writing and want to remain safe online, read on. We will tell you what phishing is and explore the most common schemes that target students and writers to help you protect yourself!

Phishing: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Phishing is a common trick used by cyber criminals to obtain private information from their targets. Criminals who use it pretend to be legitimate institutions and run correspondence with potential victims on their behalf (typically via email). Most often, the targets of phishing criminals are your:

  • Personally identifiable data;
  • Online accounts and passwords;
  • Banking details;
  • Credit card details.

Letting criminals get their hands on these kinds of information often leads to financial loss and identity theft.

3 Phishing Schemes Targeted at College Students You Must Be Aware Of

With an estimated 3.4 billion scam emails coming from frauds pretending to be trusted sources, phishing is now the most common type of cybercrime. And students are a huge risk group.

To prevent being scammed, here are the most common schemes that might be targeted at you as a college student:

1.   Academic Aid Services

Homework and academic writing are known to be the biggest pain points of modern students. Millions of students decide to hire professionals to write an essay for them to maintain a healthy study-life balance and perform well in college. And where such a huge demand exists, there is also a big risk. Today, hundreds of fraudulent academic aid services will attempt to steal your personal and financial information from you. Luckily, not all essay writing services are scams.

The solution: Be picky if you need someone to help you with your studies. Look for services that are well-known, reputable, and legitimate. Most importantly, always make sure that your privacy is protected on such sites.

2.   Scholarships and Grants

Due to the growing cost of education, the vast majority of school graduates need financial aid. Yet, numbers suggest that only 7% actually receive a scholarship. This means that scholarship and grant support is also a very sensitive topic for students, making it a great field for scams. Phishing criminals often pretend to be official scholarship and grant organizations to lure out your social security numbers, bank details, and other data.

The solution: To avoid scholarship fraud, do extensive research before applying for any kind of aid. Double-check any scholarship or grant-related information on their providers’ official sites. Finally, never pay for your applications (this is a common type of scam), don’t apply via doubtful platforms, and never share your sensitive information unless you are 100% confident in the legitimacy of the organization.

3.   Loan Debt Relief

Over 43 million people have student loan debt in 2024. This can put a great deal of pressure on young people who often live on shoestring budgets and make them easy targets for fraud. Loan debt relief scams often make bulk calls or send phishing emails to promise students to eliminate or reduce their debts. They can collect personal data for this purpose and even charge an additional fee. This is another scheme you want to avoid.

The solution: If you receive a debt relief offer, ask many questions to identify the organization that offers it and check its reputation on the web. Contact the organization yourself to double-check your eligibility. And never give your data or pay upfront.

Key Signs of Phishing Attacks You Must Be Aware of

The schemes described above are only a few of the many common tricks criminals may use to get personal information from students. In the real world, frauds can use many other pain points to play on your emotions and make you more vulnerable to their schemes. But if you know the common signs of phishing attempts, you should be able to identify them and protect yourself.

So, what signs should you look out for?

  • Unreasonable threats—Phishing criminals love using your fears to their benefit. They often overwhelm you with some threats to your safety to get you on the hook. For example, they may say that your bank account is under a hacker attack right now to get you worried.
  • Sense of urgency—Frauds will always restrict your time to process the information they give you to hold you back from making weighted decisions. In the case of a bank account scheme, they can create a sense of urgency by stating that if you don’t take any actions right now, your account will be empty in a very short time.
  • Suspicious URLs—Frauds often use URLs similar to official sites of legal organizations or people they pretend to be. They do this to create a sense of trust. However, if you look closer at these URLs, they often turn out to be shortened or condensed or contain hard-to-notice spelling errors.
  • Requests for sensitive information—Finally, the clearest sign of a phishing attack is a request for information that you’d want to keep secret, such as logins and passwords, credit card details, social security numbers, bank information, personally identifiable information, etc. You should never share this information unless you are confident in the legitimacy of the contact person, site, or organization you’re dealing with.

Now, you have everything you need to know to stay safe. Be sure to use this information to boost your online safety and stay away from phishing criminals!

Author Profile

Content writer Nicole Hardy is celebrated for her detailed and thoughtful journalism within the realms of education and the arts, with a special emphasis on performing arts education. Over the course of her decade-long career, Hardy has earned a reputation as a trusted expert in her field. Her writing is marked by thorough analysis and a captivating style of storytelling. She earned her Master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Arts, with a focus on arts and culture journalism.

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