Protecting College Students from Online Fraud: A Call to Action for Higher Education Institutions

Call to Action: Protect College Students from Online Fraud

In an era where technology is the foundation of everything we do, the rise of deepfakes and identity theft presents significant challenges for college students and the institutions that serve them. As these threats evolve, higher education institutions must adopt comprehensive strategies to protect their students and themselves from fraud. This involves not only educating students about safeguarding their personal information but also implementing robust systems to secure sensitive data.

The Shift from Physical to Digital Fraud

A decade ago, educational institutions primarily worried about physical fraud — lost IDs, stolen documents, and on-campus theft. Today, the landscape has dramatically changed. The digital age has brought about sophisticated forms of fraud that can have devastating consequences. To combat these threats, colleges and universities are increasing staffing and investing in advanced tools to protect students.

Real-world Scenarios of Identity Theft

Let’s explore two recent scenarios that highlight the pressing need for improved online security measures in higher education.

Scenario 1: Minimal Security Leads to Identity Theft

Holly, a student at a four-year university, set up her online account during freshman orientation. With only a username and password, she could access her academic profile, classes, financial aid — and the sensitive data that accompanies it, including her date of birth, Social Security number and bank details. After a successful freshman year, Holly was shocked to receive a bank statement showing a large, unauthorized withdrawal. Shortly thereafter, she received a notice about an online car payment she never set up.

Upon investigating, Holly discovered that her university account had been hacked. The thief had used the data in her profile to open credit cards, get a car loan and make large withdrawals. This breach left Holly grappling with the fallout of identity theft, a situation that could have been prevented if the account had been secured with stronger security measures.

Scenario 2: Passwords Stolen by Bots

Ali, another student, was accustomed to occasional requests to reset his password. However, he became suspicious when he learned that fraudsters were using bots to trick students into revealing their passwords through password reset requests. His university had been infiltrated by bots that mimicked official communications, leading to widespread account compromises. Like Holly, Ali found himself a victim of identity theft, with his personal information now in the hands of a fraudster.

The Role of Universities in Protecting Students

These scenarios underscore the critical role universities must play in safeguarding their students’ information. Here are some steps institutions can take:

  1. Educate and Empower Students: Teaching students about the importance of protecting their personal information is crucial. Workshops, seminars and online resources can help students recognize phishing attempts, understand the risks of oversharing information, and learn best practices for creating strong passwords.
  2. Implement Advanced Security Systems: Universities should invest in advanced cybersecurity measures. This includes multi-factor authentication (MFA), end-to-end encryption and regular security audits. By ensuring that access to sensitive information is tightly controlled, institutions can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access.
  3. Use Biometric Identity Verification: Institutions must protect themselves from the creation of fake student accounts as well as protecting legitimate students from account takeover. Biometric identity verification helps in both cases. When a student creates their online account, an advanced identity verification solution like Jumio requires them to take a photo of their government-issued ID and a selfie and then performs a variety of AI-based checks to ensure the person is who they say they are and that they are physically present. After setting up the account, when the student wants to perform a potentially high-risk activity such as changing their password or withdrawing funds, you can require another selfie to make sure it’s still the same person, not a fraudster who has taken over their account.
  4. Regularly Update Security Protocols: Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field. Institutions must stay ahead of the curve by continuously updating their security protocols and staying informed about the latest threats and vulnerabilities.
  5. Provide Support for Victims: In the unfortunate event that a student falls victim to identity theft, universities should have resources and support systems in place to help them navigate the aftermath. This includes access to legal advice, credit monitoring services and counseling.

As deepfakes, bots and identity theft become increasingly prevalent, higher education institutions have a responsibility to protect their students. By setting up advanced security systems and leveraging biometric identity verification, universities can create a safer environment that allows students to focus on their education without the fear of falling victim to fraud. It also allows universities to protect their reputation, leading to greater trust and a stronger relationship with current students as well as alumni.

To learn more about how Jumio can help you protect your students and your institution, just fill out this form, and one of our higher education specialists will be in touch shortly.


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