Email phishing scams grow

Email phishing scams are on the rise at the College of William and Mary, with around 60 students facing identity theft since 2011.

Around 500 students at the College of William and Mary recently received a scam email attempting to access their private information. The emails were sent using a student’s email account. Experts and administrators are currently investigating the impact of the fraud as well as enacting countermeasures to alleviate it.

According to Windows Engineering Manager James Supplee ’70, this is not an isolated event. Similar phishing attempts have occurred frequently since Christmas in 2011, when around 60 students’ identities were stolen.

“We’ve been going at it for around 18 months, serious and heavy,” Supplee said. “It’s an endless cycle.”

Supplee noted that the primary assailants attempting to infiltrate the College’s system are four to six groups who each possess different scam styles and skill sets. Despite the many filtering mechanisms in place, engineers at the College have found it difficult to prevent all of the phishing attempts.

“Our system drops about 90 percent of the emails that hit, and our internal system drops another 50 percent,” Supplee said. “It goes through multiple layers, but we can’t stop it all, especially when it’s from an actual student.”

In general, students at the College have not encountered any significant problems from these fraud attempts. However, the experience has been unnerving for those subjected  to these attempts.

“I find it disturbing that so many people in this world are trying to take advantage of others, and it’s scary how easy that can be,” Samantha Cohen ’17 said.

The IT administration sent an email to students Nov. 10 explaining what can be done to address the phishing attacks. Some of the tips included ways to identify fraud emails as well as ways to avoid accidentally responding to them.

Supplee stated that awareness was key to solving this problem.

“The more people can be aware, the better it is,” Supplee said. “We do the best we can with what we have, and we need everyone to use their common sense.”

Director of Systems and Support Chris Ward advised students to be mindful of where they place their private information and to always seek help if they were unsure.

“Be very careful where you enter your credentials,” Ward said. “If you have the least bit of suspicion, double-check with us.”


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