Beware of fake job offers: Scams against college students


Utica University’s cyber and economic crime building.

James Hayes, Contributing Writer

As college students, the one thing that many of us lack is – cash. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are aware of our situation, and they’re using this to their benefit – by attacking us! How? By offering us job opportunities that are too good to be true.

 While researching the topic, the cybersecurity company Proofpoint found roughly 4,000 job scam emails are sent daily, nearly all of which target college students. These fake jobs range from “mystery shopper” to “personal assistant” to various positions in social justice by imitating UNICEF.

 Occasionally, these deceptive job offers claim to have received your information from your college’s directory. The greeting is usually generic, like “Dear Student.” Cybercriminals keep it simple for themselves – they can simultaneously send the same email to many people. Even more disturbing is that sometimes, these emails appear to come from a professor at your institution or another university. The emails are prepared to seem flattering; for example, one may claim, “you were recommended.” The email is intended to make you feel good about yourself.

 To make matters even more disgraceful, these cybercriminals often pretend to “employ” the student. They’ll send cashier’s checks as payment to the student, and of course, these checks are fraudulent. Proofpoint found that the cybercriminals requested students to deposit the fake cashier’s check and send money to an “orphanage” through Zelle. Other job scams include hiring students to fundraise on campus for causes like helping people in Ukraine.

 This scam is yet another form of social engineering. But the bad guys are profiting hard – this scam alone aimed at college students like us amounted to $7.2 million. And that was only what was reported to the FBI’s Incident Internet Crime Complaint Center – it is most certainly a lot more.

 How can you tell if the job you’re applying for might be fake? While it’s hard to resist money, ask yourself a few questions. First, did you even apply for this job in the first place, or did it just appear in your inbox one day? Second, does the job provide a good description of what you’ll be working on? Third, the pay is high with unusual benefits (i.e., you don’t have to work many hours, and you can work remotely).

 Using your personal email to apply for jobs is good practice. While cybercriminals know chances are you’re a student by the .edu domain, they don’t know if you’re a student from your email address. If you receive a job offer you didn’t apply for, it’s most likely a scam. If you need clarification on whether an email is genuine, double-check with IITS or a trusted professor. Be aware. Be cyber-smart (even if you’re not a cyber student!). Stay Safe, Utica U!