Category : security

Breaking the Loop: Avoiding the Shadows of Computer, Employment, and Financial Scams 

Every year, the groundhog steps out of its burrow, searching for shadows that foretell the duration of winter. Online, there are many other shadows to potentially look out for. Running afoul of them may not impact the weather, but it can impact the wellbeing of your finances and data. Some of these shadows are seeking to intentionally defraud you, such as attempted computer scams, employment scams, and financial scams. As we celebrate Groundhog Day, let’s break the loop and learn how to avoid these lurking threats. 

The Shadow of Computer Scams: 

Computer scams lurk in the shadows of the internet, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting users. They come in various forms — phishing emails, malware, and fraudulent schemes. The shadow of a compromised computer can cast a long, dark winter over your digital life. 

Email Vigilance: Be wary of unsolicited emails, especially those requesting personal information or containing suspicious links. Legitimate organizations won’t ask for sensitive details via email or create dire warnings of harm if action is not taken immediately. Threats of account deletion is a common example. 

Good Password Practices: Ensure that you are using a unique password for each account you use, especially for critical accounts such as your work, bank, or school accounts. A recommended and easy way to accomplish this is by using pass phrases instead of hard to remember passwords such as “338&&GRtsp!.” An example of a passphrase would be “99Bottlesofbeeronthewall” or “ImetaTravellerfromanantiqueland.” You can even put spaces in your passphrases! It is also recommended that you change passwords at least once per semester. 

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enable MFA for your accounts. It acts as an additional layer of protection, making it harder for unauthorized users to access your accounts. Using an MFA system also helps notify you if a malicious actor has obtained your username and password. Contact ITS (785-670-3000) if you would like additional information. 

Password Management Software: Another way to manage multiple passwords, while also ensuring that you have strong password protection, is to utilize password management software such as Nordpass, Bitwarden, KeePass, or Dashlane. 

The Shadow of Employment Scams: 

In the world of online job hunting, shadows can manifest as employment scams. Fraudsters prey on job seekers with promises of dream jobs or lucrative opportunities, only to lead them into a trap. 

Research Employers: Before applying for/accepting a job, research the company thoroughly. Legitimate employers have an online presence, with reviews and a professional website. Remember that virtually all legitimate employment postings at Washburn universities are listed on our website. 

Be Skeptical of Overly Attractive Offers: If a job offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Exercise caution when presented with offers that promise high pay for minimal effort. 

Verify Job Listings: Use reputable job platforms. Be cautious of listings that lack detailed information about the company or position. 

Protect your information: Be wary of releasing your personal information such as your address, phone number, social security number, or financial information to an entity that you do not know well yet. Always verify the legitimacy of the other party before releasing such sensitive information. 

The Shadow of Financial Scams: 

While these sorts of threats come in great variety across virtually any environment and medium in which money changes hands, three of the most broadly common types of financial scamming are gift card scams, payment scams, and check scams. 

Gift Card Scams: Most frequently, Gift Card Scams are an attempt to trick the target into purchasing gift cards in order to transact funds due to the semi anonymous nature of the transaction(as opposed to say an Electronic Funds Transfer or e-check, which are both reversable and very traceable). Often times these scams will target the elderly, non-native English speakers, and college students by pretending to be a government agency or company demanding payment. If any entity is claiming a debt against you and demanding payment in gift cards, you can rest assured that you have been targeted by a scammer. 

Payment Scams: We see these sorts of scams most commonly starting off as a kind of phishing, for example the malicious actor will send their target an email saying that a payment for a recurring subscription has been successfully completed, often totaling in the hundreds of dollars. The malicious actor wants to trick you into contacting them intending to halt what looks like a mistaken charge during which they will try and trick you into providing information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, and so on, from which they will be able to actually charge your account. If you receive a suspicious communication claiming that a payment you don’t recognize has been charged, the best place to start is by contacting your bank to ensure that there is no such transaction, and to independently log into your service by normal means if the communication is claiming to be from a service that you use. 

Check Scams: These types of scams are frequently involved with employment scams. For example, a malicious actor may post a personal assistant job targeting University students, and during that process will send them a check for some high quantity of money by “accident” or as part of a more complex rouse. Inevitably, and in a short time, they will request that some money or valuable object be sent back to them before you find out that the check they sent to you bounced, leaving you on the hook for whatever amount you have sent out. Always be suspicious of any requests to send and receive money or valuable items on behalf of someone that you do not know yet, and ensure that funds have cleared for any checks you have received before sending money back out. 


Break the cycle! 

As we step into the shadows of another Groundhog Day, let’s break free from the loops of scams that threaten our digital lives. By staying vigilant, practicing good cybersecurity hygiene, and sharing knowledge with others, we can cast a light on these shadows and emerge into a safer, more secure digital landscape. Happy Groundhog Day!  


--WU ITS Information Security 



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