Attempted ID Theft Schemes Target UVA Students

University of Virginia students have been victims of two attempted mass identification thefts since January, one through the University e-mail system and another through dorm phones.

The most recent scam involved students receiving calls on their dorm phones. The callers claimed that the students they called had won prizes.

Calls were first reported to the Department of Information Technology and Communication two weeks ago, said Michael McPherson, associate vice president and deputy chief information officer. According to McPherson, the caller would claim to know a student's address but would then ask for credit card and identity information to verify students were "winners" of certain prizes. At least one student has reported to ITC that he released the requested information.

McPherson said if dorm residents' phone numbers are listed in the University's online directory, roaming computer programs can easily harvest students' phone numbers and e-mail addresses to create lists for spammers.

Students can request to remove their numbers from the directory, but that may not stop the calls.

"I could just start with 927-0001, 927-0002, and run through them all, and if this is what I do for my job it is no big deal," McPherson said.

ITC advises students never to provide personal financial information in response to an unsolicited call or e-mail.

In another incident, individuals claiming to be from the University of Virginia Community Credit Union have sent students e-mails with the subjects "Urgent Account Notification" and "Enroll in 'Challenge Questions' verification Now! (last warning)."

The e-mails instruct recipients to follow a link to prevent their accounts from being locked.

The link leads to a Web site that requests account, credit card, Social Security and personal identification numbers.

The credit union spam, which began last semester, was shut down by Jan. 26, according to Vice President of Marketing Janine Williams.

"Just because there is not a flurry activity doesn't mean it won't rear its ugly head in the future," Williams said. "As time goes by, criminals get smarter and smarter, so the credit union feels the best method of prevention is customer education."

Williams emphasized that the credit union will never send e-mails requesting that their members provide private information online. Any e-mails claiming to be from the CCU can be verified by calling the union.

University police are not investigating either scam because no students have reported to the police that they turned over personal numbers.

"These crimes are very difficult to investigate, and investigators have to trace them down through two or three different computers," said University Police Capt. Michael Coleman. "When there are a number of cases like this the Secret Service does become involved because it is a federal office to use communication wires to commit fraud."

(C) 2007 Cavalier Daily via U-WIRE