Students bite phishing bait

By Louise Ridley

Internet scammers have stolen thousands of pounds from debt-ridden local students, The Platform can reveal.

Over the last month, six students from Goldsmiths college, New Cross, lost a total of £8505 when they responded to emails claiming to be from the Student Loans Company (SLC) requesting their bank details.

42-16728069The fake mail – a form of identity-theft known as ‘phishing’ – allowed cyber con artists to access bank accounts and stole thousands in student loan installments.

A SLC spokesperson said: “We believe that the phishing emails were sent on September 10.” He continued: “As soon as we were made aware of the incident, we contacted the company hosting the site and asked them to take it down.” The website has since been removed.

While other institutions were targeted, the six who responded to the emails were all from Goldsmiths, the loans authority confirmed. They also indicated that this was not the first time the SLC were used to front a phishing scam, with a previous attack on January 2007.

“This attack was more sophisticated than the last but whether it’s the same people [behind the scams], we don’t know,” said the spokesman. The SLC have now repaid the fraud victims and the police have launched an investigation.

Peter Bates, from Goldsmiths IT Support, said occurrences of identity theft were on the rise and that security awareness was crucial. “There should be a padlock icon somewhere on the screen if you are accessing secure details and the title of the website should go yellow,” he said.

“Most fake websites are very good copies of real ones but they don’t usually get it exactly right.” – Peter Bates, Goldsmiths IT Support

Holly Grand, 18, a student at Goldsmiths, expressed anxiety over the phishing attacks: “I keep a wary eye on my inbox. I don’t reply unless it’s authenticated with a certificate or has the same address as quoted in correspondence. I try to do that kind of stuff over the phone or in person really, it feels much safer.”

The SLC state they will never ask for personal information via email.

(Photo credit:http://pro.corbis.com

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