As a new term begins on the UBC campus, a fresh set of students are trying to navigate classes, homework and a social life, with scammers and advertisers vying for their personal information.
Recently, brightly coloured forms with headlines advertising internships and networking opportunities have been circulating first year lecture halls. The alleged scams, which first came to attention on the r/UBC subreddit, are brightly coloured forms that ask for student’s personal information, promising to contact them later with more information on the aforementioned internships.
This leads some students to think that the alleged scams are associated with UBC or are approved by professors.
“I think generally it is difficult to understand when a sign-up sheet is legitimate as even the real ones can have varying issues with them,” said third-year integrated science major student Rafi Meher.
According to first-year student Christian Kyle the scammers “try and target every lecture hall, during each block ... and they don’t really come back to it.”
Meher said that one of his professors cautioned him about the forms, saying that his valuable personal information could be shared with advertisers or other scammers.
“In Canada there aren’t really any laws preventing call spoofing, putting a fake name and number on a call and pretending to be someone else,” said Meher. “So, in that case they sell to those companies that then advertise through the phone lines.”
“Once your number is known to be active by the spammers, it will take a really long time to stop the calls from coming.”
Most of these scams solicit students for summer work opportunities. One reads, “Average earnings $20,000, top earnings over $40,000 last summer.”
Kyle says these forms specifically target students who are short on cash.
“I think its just people who really need money or just really want money for this or that reason, and they’re like oh, this would really help me out, but then they just get scammed,” said Kyle.
Meher says the forms are a reminder to pay attention where your personal information goes to.
“Students should think about what information they give out as, even if you can google the name of the business on the sheet, you can’t guarantee that the business actually sent the form,” said Meher.” You should only really trust the sign-up form if your prof mentions it or if someone comes in to talk to your class with permission from the prof.”
“UBC treats the privacy and security of its students, faculty and staff very seriously,” says Rob McCloy, executive director of Campus Security. Campus security is not aware of the scam, but McCloy stresses that “[he] would encourage our community to be careful when sharing personal information,” and adds that students should, “report suspected scams to police. Anyone who is the victim of a scam should contact police and also the national anti-fraud centre at 1-888-495-8501.”
“If you see them, take them, rip them up, or burn them,” said Kyle. “Take them off the clipboards and save all the other poor souls who signed it.