Everyone is busy at Christmas. As the old year ends people’s thoughts turn to making plans for traveling, for shopping, for celebrations and for what the new year might hold. We are distracted and perhaps a little more optimistic than usual. For fraudsters, ever the cynics, this might just offer the opportunity they need.
Many universities have reported seeing evidence of a phishing campaign targeting students during 2015. Emails arrive in student inboxes claiming to be from the ‘finance department’ or the ‘Student Loans Company’ and congratulating students on be being eligible for additional funds. The emails urged students to sign up to collect the funds and helpfully providing a link to do so. The emails can be well written, sound official and mention sources of authority; the university, the student loans company, and the government but they are a scam.
A recent example of the text of an email…
Date: 29 December 2015 at 09:42:58 GMT
Subject: Important university grant information
We are pleased to inform you that the university has been awarded funds for undergraduate study support by the government.
All undergraduate and postgraduate students studying on a full-time course are entitled to this grant. To ensure you receive your grant, you are required to submit your details via the web link below.
Please click on the link above or copy and paste it into your browser to submit your details.
Once processed, you will be contacted via your registered address with the university.
If you receive an email like this the advice is to forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org
You should not follow the link in it. It may take you to a site attempting to trick you into disclosing sensitive financial information. The Oxford infosec site has more advice on how to avoid email scams.