Schwartz Hannum shared an alert that independent schools have seen an uptick in online “phishing” scams targeting parents by offering tuition discounts. These scams have ensnared parents, who pay tuition to the scammer instead of the school.
Phishing scams have become increasingly sophisticated, spoofing a school’s text, email, or other message format to look like it originated from a legitimate school account.
Here are some clues for parents:
- Scammers will often use a slight variation of the spelling of a person’s name to spoof an address.
- Any urging or pressuring language should be a red flag. An example is a message telling the recipient they “must act fast.”
- If links are included in the message, encourage parents to hover over the link with the cursor – if the link does not match the URL that appears when hovering, that is a solid indicator it is not legitimate.
Proactive steps schools can take:
- Communicate with families and identify the school’s only legitimate payment portals/methods.
- Encourage parents to contact the relevant school department for any questions before making a payment.
- Make all parent email lists secure and take added precautions when distributing them.
- Educate staff about the scams and encourage staff to be vigilant in safeguarding parent and student data.