Scammers ceaselessly try to defraud students and faculty members alike, but Information Services and the University Police Department stand as the first line of defense, thwarting attackers and developing new programs to educate and protect the University of Richmond community from cyber attacks.
“As we move into the digital era, it’s not as much grabbing purses and getting into homes,” Information Security director Shana Bumpas said. “It is more of stealing data and taking bank information.”
Last January, URPD recorded three cybercrimes in the UR Crime Log. Two of these incidents were fraud-related, Asst. Chief Beth Simonds said.
“There are so many scams that people need to stay vigilant,” Simonds said.
Bumpas has worked the last 12 years in cybersecurity, and continues to protect students and faculty members from these and other cyberattacks.
“It’s a never-ending battle,” Bumpas said. “Information Services has ways of stopping people who pound at the firewall, but phishing is a way of getting the user to help them in.”
Detective Tim Meacham, who works with cases involving frauds and scams, said: “These scams change with the seasons. [Right now] it’s tax season, so the IRS scams are going to start again.”
At the beginning of the semester, scam emails may attempt to steal students’ financial aid refunds by getting students to give their bank account information, Bumpas said.
“If [scammers] go as far as getting deeper or get bank information, then we will work with the student and the police,” Bumpas added.
URPD has increased its preventative measures by informing students about cyberthreats and of ways to protect themselves. In September, Meacham published the first edition of "The Dryer Sheets," a monthly publication with practical information for students posted on laundry rooms' walls.
“I stole it from VCU’s Toilet Times,” Meacham said. “It’s a good way of getting basic crime prevention info out there. This year, [URPD Chief Dave McCoy] wanted to focus on cybercrimes.”
Some of the topics previously covered include cyberbullying, sexting and holiday shopping scams. The next few newsletters will be on apartment and job scams, Meacham said.
“We have seen apartment scams that require a deposit so that they can get your banking information,” Meacham said. “For apartments and rooms, download a picture of that apartment and reverse image search it to see if that image matches the address you are looking for.”
For job postings, Meacham recommends taking them to Career Services.
“They validate and vet it to make sure they aren’t a scam,” Meacham said.
Simonds, Bumpas and Meacham provided a few parting tips for students affected by scams or to prevent scams from succeeding.
“Track your financial accounts very closely,” Simonds said. “Check on your accounts and keep close control over your passwords.”
Bumpas advised being mindful of what you post online. “Even though you think it is innocent or harmless," he said. "[Hackers] can piece information together and steal your identity or target an attack against you as an individual.”
It's important to validate who you are working with on the other side of the computer, Meacham said. "If it seems too good then it probably is,” he said.
Students affected by scams or harassment can also go to the URPD station or call the non-emergency police number.
“If they come to us, we are going to help,” Meacham said.
Contact contributor Daniel Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.