University warns students, faculty of recent scams

By Anna Spoerre, @annaspoerre

University faculty members are warning students to be protective of their personal information after multiple phone and email scams involving tax information were reported on campus this semester.

“It’s to everyone’s benefit to be cautious and aware this is going on,” said Olinda Hubbs, education coordinator for the office of Information technology.

One of these scams is conducted by telephone. Scott Bridges, interim assistant provost and chief information officer at SIU’s Office of Information Technology, said he received one of at least 20 of the spam calls reported to IT this semester. The caller made a friendly attempt to get personal information from him, politely asking him to confirm his name and who he works with.

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Hubbs said if someone receives such a call, he or she should identify who the caller is before continuing the conversation. 

Scams are also conducted by email phishing. Disguised as a “paperless W-2” directing users to a website that looks similar to SIU’s human resources self-service page, the fake tax form is a way for scammers to obtain someone’s personal information, Bridges said.

For this reason, students and faculty should be wary of messages from odd email addresses, Hubbs said. 

The university is sending out legitimate emails notifying students their W-2s are available. The emails do not include a link, Hubbs said, so emails with a direct link to access a W-2 could be a scam. Bridges said many universities experience similar scams this time of year when W-2 forms are released.

“The more they can get from you, the more damage they can possibly do,” Hubbs said. “We’re actively looking at what can be done. But we haven’t found any way to block it.”

Bridges compared the search for the scammer to a game of cat and mouse, because every time the email origins are discovered, the scammer simply starts using a different address. So far, no one on campus has reported being a victim to the email scam, he said.

Motivated in part by the recent scams, the university is developing a training program to inform people on campus about scammers. Bridges said he hopes to have the program completed this summer.

SIU police Sgt. Chad Beights said students should not give out personal information such as birth dates, credit card, drivers license or social security numbers over the phone or by email.

“If it doesn’t make sense, don’t respond,” he said. 

Hubbs said those who encounter suspicious activity to inform SIU police or IT Security immediately.

“Keep your eyes open, be aware, don’t give out your info to anybody. Take the extra step of calling the institution to check and don’t give them a number,” she said.

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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