By Katie Bedard
Elm Staff Writer
Before the start of the new semester, Washington College students received emails regarding a phishing scam that had been sent out. The scam emails used a WC staff name and contained a link and even an offer to make a considerable amount of money. While WC staff were quick to alert students of these fraudulent messages, it’s still unnerving to think that even WC can be affected by scams. The good news, however, is that even the most advanced email scams stick out in an inbox. The important part that people need to understand when trying to prevent becoming a victim is to trust their instincts and err on the side of caution.
When I received one of these email scams, it told me I could make over $250 a week by basically doing nothing more than driving my car around with an ad on it. Despite the fact that the broke college student within me wanted to respond back, I somehow knew that it was too good to be true. As an intern on campus, I make less than that in two weeks. Why would anyone pay so much for such little advertising, and why would WC deem this information relevant enough to be sent to their students? This, coupled with the fact that I received the same email twice, was enough for me to leave it where it was.
I’m sure of lot of people can remember the time when most scams used to pop up in a blinking text box, offering up money or free electronic products for being the thousandth person to visit a site. While these scams still exist, more have come about over time as technology advances. Now, trying to gain the trust of their victims, email scams are pretending to be sent out by people the victims know.
“Scammers typically use social engineering techniques to impersonate an individual or company,” said Yoav Vilner, in the article “The Latest Phishing Scams: Everything You Need to Know” for the online newspaper, The Next Web. “The idea is to trick victims into revealing private or sensitive information so they can use it to their own advantage.”
In the case of receiving a scam from a WC staff member or another familiar name, it can be rather obvious that the email itself didn’t come from them. A lot of fake emails will have things such as “Check This Out” in the subject line or other strange messages that don’t usually come from the person it’s impersonating. Other red flags can include misspelled words, files and text links that ask for personal information, and overall bad formatting. At the end of the day, it’s more than OK to ignore an email from a friend whose message sounds like they’ve been replaced with a robot. At the very least, it’s good to spend some time double checking to make sure it’s the real deal.
“If the email congratulates you on earning a cash rewards bonus or indicates you have been selected for some type of deal, it generally should include the last four digits of your account number. If the email does not contain that, it’s most likely a phishing scam seeking your account information,” said Jeff Rosen, a national investigative correspondent for the Today Show.
It’s important for students to trust their gut feelings when it comes to emails and other messages. No matter how tempting they are, if something just doesn’t sound right or too good to be true, there’s a good chance that it is. A lot of students might assume that because it’s being sent to their WC email account that it’s safe, but in reality, that’s not a good enough reason to accept something with question. Besides, in the end, what’s worth more, the chance of receiving a new iPhone, or losing the entirety of one’s life savings?