Q&A on scam prevention with Rowan’s assistant director of communications for IRT

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In light of recent announcements sent to Rowan students about fraudulent emails, Erin O’Neill, Rowan’s assistant director of communications for Information, Resources and Technology, explains how students can protect themselves against these fraud attempts.

Question: How can students protect themselves against fraud?

Answer: Rowan University has systems and security controls in place to block the majority of fraudulent emails from reaching students, but the best way anyone can protect themselves against scams is by learning how to identify potential threats. That’s why we require every student to take security awareness training, which covers the warning signs of potential scams, and promote security awareness information through our website, social media and other channels.

Whenever you receive an email you were not expecting, you should use the following tips to avoid scams:

  • ​Verify before you click. Hover your cursor over embedded links to see where they’ll lead you before clicking, and do not open any attachments you are not expecting.
  • Look for red flags. Emails with obvious spelling and grammatical errors, or generic greetings like, “Dear Customer,” are likely scams. If you receive a suspicious email that looks like it came from a trusted source, call the sender and ask if they sent it.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. We need you to help us protect the Rowan University network by staying alert for possible scams. If you receive a suspicious email, delete it.
  • Safeguard personal information. Never share your personal or financial information on the internet, over the phone or in-person unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you are dealing with.

A common email scam that has targeted college students around the country offers students part-time jobs for good pay. In addition to the tips above, students should be very skeptical about any unsolicited job offers they receive, particularly for positions that seem to pay a lot of money for very little work.

Another common scam received by college students is one that invites them to join an honor society. Students should always investigate these groups before responding, as some of them are bogus and are looking to take your money.

Q: What is a sure way of knowing that someone is trying to scam you?

A: Scammers may try to trick you in a number of different ways. While there is no one single way to know that someone is trying to scam you, you can avoid falling victim to a scam by never sending money or giving out your personal information in response to an unexpected request.

Whether a person calls you on the phone, contacts you on social media or sends you an email or text message, always confirm the person reaching out to you is who they say they are before taking any further action. If the message sounds too good to be true, this may mean researching a company or person online or consulting with a trusted source to verify whether a message is real or not.

You can always reach out to the Technology Support Center at 856-256-4400 or support@rowan.edu if you are unsure whether a message is legitimate and our support specialists will help you determine an appropriate response.

Q: Have you personally had any experiences with scam or fraud?

A: While I prefer not to share any personal experiences I may have had with scams, anyone with an email address or cell phone has likely been on the receiving end of an attempted scam. Some of these scams are obvious; others are not.

That’s why it is important that every member of the university community learn the warning signs of scams and know how to respond when they receive suspicious messages. If you’ve ever fallen for a scam, please follow our guidelines on What to Do If You Responded to an Email or Phone Scam.

Q: How have these scams and fraudulent emails affected Rowan students?

A: Becoming the victim of a scam is a difficult experience for anyone, particularly if the scam leads to a financial loss.

We want to ensure that Rowan University students are equipped with the information they need to identify these types of scams so they never have to go through that type of experience.

Q: What do you think can and should be done to prevent fraudulent emails from passing through the Rowan server?

A: Email is a critical business and academic tool that supports communication among students, faculty and staff and outside collaborators. It’s important we keep that line of communication as open as possible while also protecting the University community from potential scams.

Rowan University has systems and security controls in place that prevent most fraudulent email attempts from reaching the University community.

Roughly 30 million emails are sent to Rowan email addresses in an average month, but just 20 percent of those messages actually reach the inboxes of students and employees. The rest of those emails are flagged and blocked because of security concerns.

It is not possible for any organization to block every potential scam attempt without interrupting legitimate business activity, but we are always evaluating ways we can more quickly identify fraudulent email and stop it from reaching students and employees. As soon as we do confirm a fraudulent email is reaching the university community, we block the sender to prevent that message from reaching anyone else.

While these systems and security controls play a key role in defending the University against attacks, it’s also critical that students and employees know how to identify and respond to potential scams.

Q: Is this common for universities and colleges?

A: Universities and colleges are prime targets for cyber attacks due to the amount of valuable data and sensitive research materials stored on their networks.

One of the ways criminals try to gain access to this data is by using fraudulent email to trick people into entering their username and passwords on malicious sites or to click on attachments that contain malware. That’s why students should always be skeptical of messages they were not expecting and contact the Technology Support Center if they are unsure whether a message is real or not.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: I’d like to remind students that we are here to help. If you ever have a question or concern about a message you received or want information on how you can better protect yourself from cyber threats, please reach out to us.

Also, we are always looking for ways to improve our outreach to students about this important topic. If you have any suggestions on how we can better reach students with information about security awareness topics, please contact us at 856-256-4400 or support@rowan.edu.

For comments or questions about this article email news@thewhitonline.com or tweet @thewhitonline.

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