Fighting the Specter of Fraud in Higher Education

Halloween may be weeks away, but the ghosts are out early this year — ghost students, that is.

Ghost students are bots created by fraudsters that take advantage of online college application systems in order to receive financial aid and grant money. Using stolen or synthetic identities, they apply at colleges, register for classes and apply for funds. They also hack into existing students’ accounts in order to redirect financial aid to themselves.

College admissions directors, administrators and teachers are all too familiar with this topic, as it’s costing them an exorbitant amount of time and money and damaging the reputation of their schools.

For example, according to the state Chancellor’s Office, 20-25% of California community college applications are fictitious. These colleges may be an especially easy target for criminals, as they do not require a Social Security number to apply and are required to accept any applicant possessing a high school diploma.

The rise in ghost students has surged since the pandemic, in large part because of online classes, which made it easier for ghost students to fly under the radar. This was further complicated by the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to stop verifying household income in the wake of a national crisis — an initiative that is expected to remain in place until the next award cycle.

Fortunately, there’s an easy remedy: Jumio’s identity verification solutions. By scanning their government-issued ID and taking a selfie, students can quickly and easily verify their real-world identity in seconds when they apply online. When they return to the website to register for classes, apply for financial aid, or manage their account, you can prompt them to take another selfie to prove they are the same person who applied. Advanced liveness detection ensures the person is physically present and that the selfie isn’t a photo, video injection attack or other type of spoof.

With online enrollment growing steadily every year, it’s never been more important to have the right tools in place to stop ghost students. Contact us today to learn more about how Jumio can help you fight fraud, protect your legitimate students and preserve your school’s reputation.


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