Scammers are rampant across the internet due to modern technologies. From pretending to be Amazon workers to texting you that you’ve won a lottery you never entered, it is difficult to escape their constant pursuit. I’m always being contacted about winning gift cards from Walmart, my car’s extended warranty, so on and so forth.
However, if there was one place I felt somewhat safe, it was in my university email. My guard was down.
In Fall 2018, when I was merely a freshman on campus, I received my first email from eager scammers. Being naive at the time, I was not skeptical when offered a teacher’s assistant position that paid well on campus because I could not fathom that scammers could find their way into a university email.
But oh, was I wrong.
I was so excited to be picked for such an honorable job, I went to Staples and found printer paper that the “professor” asked me to purchase for business reasons. I had a few reasons to doubt the authenticity of the job, such as the various typos, but I was eager to believe that those were just human mistakes.
I did not know at the time how university jobs operated. To be quite honest, the scammers were doing their job in complimenting my work in school and pandering to my ego.
It was only days into the trick that I fully realized I was being conned when they asked me to purchase $300 worth of iTunes gift cards and to send them the codes on the back. I suppose I applaud them for being patient in the long con.
Perhaps what bothers me the most is that these criminals not only want to take your money but also take advantage of the position that university students are in. They often offer a job on campus, such as a work study position that many students would love to have on their resume. They offer money for people that are already paying a hefty amount to be in school and most likely working part or full-time jobs.
To them, stealing money from hard working people is all part of a day’s work and is simply routine for them at this point.
These are a few ways to identify a scam, especially those targeted to UCCS students.
Check the email address: Most scammers will not actually have a “@uccs.edu” address. They will try to trick students by inserting that bit into their name like so: “firstname.lastname@example.org”
Google the name of the person: Remember to enter the keyword “UCCS” with their name into Google to see if they come up as a result on the UCCS Staff website. If you cannot find any information, it is likely a scam. Scammers will either pretend to be staff, alumni or people related to the school to gain your trust. Here is the Staff Directory for a quick reference check.
Reverse image search photos: If the scammers are not clever enough, they will use a photo of a person or thing that they randomly found online. You can reverse search the image to find the originals and determine if their photo is legit.
Look out for typos: Often, these scammers will leave typos such as mechanical mistakes, misspellings, unnecessarily capitalized words, etc. These types of errors should raise a red flag.
They are offering a lot of money: In most cases, to lure people in, these scammers will bait students with high-paying opportunities. For example, in an email I received in 2019, a Mr. Kason Clark was offering $400 for an hour a day, three times a week. This is just as it appears — too good to be true.
They ask you to purchase something: The scammers may write something along the lines of “We need Google Play gift cards for disabled students in Africa, will you please get them and send us the code on the back?” They also might ask you to purchase a laptop or printer paper, which they promise to reimburse you while actually fishing for your bank details. Do not fall for it!
They ask for personal information: These despicable people will usually ask you to send them money, but if they don’t, they might try to get your bank information, your credit card number, home address, phone number and more. Keep your information as private as possible, but stay calm if you see a scammer pop up in your inbox.
Still, just avoiding scams doesn’t feel quite enough, does it? If you want to help combat scams yourself, there are a few things you can do.
University Police are aware of these unknown users who portray themselves as UCCS faculty/staff, and they ask that if you or someone you know has been a victim of this solicitation, that “you report this activity as soon as possible.” So, if you do receive a scam email, be sure to forward it to email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org for their records.
Protect yourself and do not fall for their enticing tricks and traps. Be diligent and report scammers to the proper authorities.
Stay safe out there, Mountain Lions.