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Warning: Beware of Tuition Scams

Tuition scams circulate U.S. colleges and universities, don’t be a victim

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Warning: Beware of Tuition Scams

Photo courtesy of engadget.com

Photo courtesy of engadget.com

Photo courtesy of engadget.com

Anthony Karambelas, Staff Reporter

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They are not easy to spot, but they are out to get you. Most online shoppers have experienced a scam at some point. They come in so many forms, from “winning an online sweepstakes” that you never entered in the first place, to receiving a not-so pleasant surprise in the mail from a low feedback eBay seller. Maybe you are more familiar with that “infection detected” notification that pops up on your browser. Whatever it is, these scams are all dangerous and prevalent. It should come as no surprise then that a public university just like Cal State LA was hit with one.

Within the past few months, a scam has spread throughout the state of Washington offering a five percent tuition discount to international students. At the University of Washington, over 90 Chinese students fell prey to the scam, accumulating to the transfer of over $1 million dollars.

The scam began with an ad posted on WeChat, a popular social media app among Chinese students, by a woman named “FY”. FY claimed to be a fellow Chinese immigrant and founder of a non-profit student organization designed to help international students.

Victims wired checks directly to FY, but shortly after received notification from the registrar’s office that their tuition had never been paid.

These students were primarily targeted for their susceptibility. “I’m extremely angry and feel hurt and betrayed that a Chinese person has done this to me – preying on people who don’t know how the system in the United States works. It’s outrageous,” said a victim to King5.

Another victim told Northwest Asian Weekly, “Living in a foreign country alone is already not easy for us. And being defrauded by one of our own students just makes everything much worse.”

Although the scam has only been reported in Washington, Cal State LA students should be advised to keep on the lookout. Sheryl Okuno, Information Security Director, recently sent out a campus-wide email warning students of this very real threat.

It contains recommendations on how to avoid falling victim to a scam of a similar nature. The bottom line is, students should never share their online credentials with anyone. If their password is jeopardized, they should change it immediately. Okuno also recommends that students use different user IDs and passcodes for each of their online accounts.

Another safe online behavior, suggested by Okuno, is to use multifactor authentication whenever possible. Also known as two-step verification, it adds an extra safety layer by sending a code to a cell phone or email before allowing system access. Even if scammers received a person’s user info, they would not be able to penetrate the second layer of account verification.

As far as learning how to spot potential scams, Okuno offers simple advice: “If an offer sounds too good to be true, then it is. Don’t take the bait.” Students should do their research and learn about different types of scams, so that they will recognize them should one come their way.

“Universities and individuals affected by this or any scam should report the event. Federal authorities investigate reports across the U.S.,” said Okuno.

Nowadays, IRS scams and credit card frauds are catching Americans off guard. Okuno suggests referring to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and US-CERT websites for more information on fraudulent activities.

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