Scheme swin­dles stu­dents

Scam­mers us­ing email at­tack to gain ac­cess to fi­nan­cial aid re­funds

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation -

Ma­li­cious at­tack­ers have re­cently tried to gain ac­cess to stu­dents’ fi­nan­cial aid re­funds at mul­ti­ple col­leges in a scheme that in­volves send­ing fraud­u­lent emails to stu­dents, ac­cord­ing to a warn­ing is­sued by the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment.

The tar­get is fed­eral stu­dent aid re­funds, money dis­trib­uted to stu­dents af­ter tu­ition and other ed­u­ca­tion costs are paid.

The U.S. Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment’s Of­fice of Fed­eral Stu­dent Aid re­ceived mul­ti­ple re­ports from col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties about the phish­ing cam­paign tar­get­ing stu­dent email ac­counts, a depart­ment spokesman said on back­ground. Au­thor­i­ties de­clined to iden­tify the schools that re­ported the at­tacks.

The at­tacks be­gin with a phish­ing email sent through a col­lege’s pass­word-pro­tected web­site for stu­dents, depart­ment of­fi­cials wrote. It is an email in­tended to fraud­u­lently ex­tract per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

The na­ture of the emails sug­gests the at­tack­ers have done re­search to un­der­stand the school’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods, and the at­tacks are suc­cess­ful be­cause stu­dents pro­vide the in­for­ma­tion re­quested by the rogue op­er­a­tions, the depart­ment warned.

The money is what’s left over af­ter stu­dents have used aid to cover tu­ition, room and board. A stu­dent, for ex­am­ple, might be el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive $25,000 in fed­eral stu­dent aid, which is trans­ferred elec­tron­i­cally from the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment to a univer­sity.

If a stu­dent had $4,000 re­main­ing, the univer­sity would typ­i­cally trans­fer that bal­ance to the stu­dent, of­fer­ing sev­eral ways to re­ceive the money, in­clud­ing a debit card or an elec­tronic de­posit to a bank ac­count. It is those elec­tronic de­posits that are vul­ner­a­ble.

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