Vishing Threats For Online Learning Students

Vishing Threats For Online Learning Students
Summary: This year has seen a massive increase in people who are learning online, mostly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic which shut down businesses, schools, and universities. While it’s great to see that the digital world can continue to support students in the face of such adversity, sadly this also meant that many cyber criminals saw an opportunity to exploit the world of online learning.

Signs For Students To Look Out For

Vishing scams have also been steadily rising in recent years and this year many have been targeting students studying online. This is concerning news for all those trying to continue with their learning and the parents of those whose children may be conducting their schoolwork online. Here is a guide to address some of the top vishing threats out there right now and the signs that students can look out for to help protect themselves while studying.

What Is Vishing?

In case you're unaware of what vishing actually is and how cyber criminals are using this to scam unsuspecting victims, let’s take a quick look. Vishing is a type of phishing scam but rather than being conducted over text or email it is done using phone calls. Hence voice + phishing = vishing.

The aim of these scams is to use phone calls and verbal queues to trick people into giving away their personal information. This is usually done by pretending to be an official body or company, or by pretending that they are acting in the victim’s best interests. They can then use the information they gather to steal their money or identity.

Common Vishing Scams

In this next section, we will look at some of the most common vishing scams out there right now that are targeting online learning platforms and students.

1. Getting Locked Out Of Your Account

Victims might be contacted by a scammer who is pretending to be a technician or representative of an online learning platform they use, for example, Google Classroom, Zoom, or an online course provider. By saying that the victim has been locked out of their account, they can convince them to share their personal information in order to “confirm their identity” and help them get back into their account. The thing is, they were never locked out in the first place and they have now divulged a lot of personal data to the scammer.

2. Payment Problem Scams

If you’ve recently signed up for a learning platform or online course and sophisticated scammers are able to get hold of this information, they will use this to their advantage. Another popular vishing scam is calling up unsuspecting students to say there has been a problem with their payment or subscription to the service. The aim is to trick them into giving up their financial details for a supposed payment, but once they have this they can use it for all sorts of other monetary scams.

3. Claiming To Be From The University Or School

One of the easiest ways to target students who have had to move their studies online is to pretend to be from their college or university. They then call up and ask the student to confirm a few details before being able to divulge any more information. By pretending to be from an official educational body like a university, people are more likely to share their information willingly.

4. Calls Selling Fake Courses Or Qualifications

One of the biggest vishing scams aimed at students is selling fake courses or qualifications over the phone. These could be promising courses and qualifications that never materialize and even promising that by taking their course you’ll be guaranteed employment at the end. The scammers are playing on the emotional needs of the caller to advance their career and get job security, particularly at a time when many have been furloughed or lost their job altogether.

The Key Signs Of A Vishing Scam That You Need To Be Aware Of

But before you panic and never pick up your phone again, there is some good news. By getting educated about the scams that are out there (as outlined above) and by familiarizing yourself with the signs of a vishing scam, students can better protect themselves in the future. So, in this next section, we’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest red flags to be aware of and ways to stay safe online and on the phone:

  • They are using threatening language or pushing for a decision
    Vishing criminals like to create a sense of urgency in order to try and make people act on impulse. If you find the caller is using threatening language or telling you to act immediately (particularly if they're saying you could be locked out of your education platform for good), this is a big warning sign.
  • They're asking for really personal information
    No official body will ask for huge amounts of information about you over the phone and they certainly won’t be asking you to divulge your full name, address, and financial details. If you receive a call and you feel they are asking too much, don't give away your information! Just hang up the phone instead.
  • It’s an automated message prompting you to hand over data
    Nowadays, automated messages are being used to confirm identities by legitimate bodies like doctors’ surgeries. However, these will ever only ask for small amounts of information (like postcard and date of birth) and never push for sensitive details like full address, bank details, or national insurance numbers. So, if you find you're being asked for a lot of information via an automated message, it’s best to hang up.
  • You search them online and can’t find the course
    If you receive a call and you're feeling unsure, you can do a quick internet search there and then. If you can’t find anything about their body or course, it’s probably a scam.
  • They won’t identify who they are
    If you ask for more details about who they are and which department they work for but they won’t disclose this information, it’s a sign that they aren’t legitimately calling from the body or establishment they claimed to be.

Now, these are by no means all the signs of a vishing scam and to a certain extent you’ll need to apply common sense to phone calls like these, but if in doubt you can always hang up the phone.