UT must provide accessible resources to protect students from email spoofing scams

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Photo Credit: Abriella Corker | Daily Texan Staff

For years, UT has been a hunting ground for cybercriminals looking for stressed, vulnerable students to prey on and abuse. 

The University is not adequately guarding students from spoofing, which is when a scammer tricks the email server into believing the actual email originated from a legitimate address. In order to protect students from identity theft and financial debt, UT should invest in security measures to combat email spoofing. 

Between financial burdens, unhealthy academic competition and rigorous coursework, students are frantic to find a job that proves the stress of college is worthwhile. Even if a job sounds too good to be true, many students are willing to risk that possibility.  Neuroscience senior Abigail Hoffpauir said she does not base her educational wealth on salary, but still feels the need  to find a successful job. 

“I feel more pressure to find a profitable job as a way to not only sustain myself, but to be able to provide for my family and be able to give back to my parents,” Hoffpauir said. 

Unfortunately, the desire to find profitable opportunities often blinds students from the ugly truth of job hunting: Not everyone wants them to succeed. Scammers often entice students with the promise of high salaries to trick them into taking the job and divulging personal or financial information.

This past summer, multiple UT students lost hundreds of dollars after receiving job offers from a fake utexas.edu email address. In the email, students were offered a position in the office of “Students with Disabilities” and asked to provide their full name, residential address, cellphone number and alternate email ID. Afterwards, a follow-up email urged the victims to write a check as a requirement for the job. 

This is not the first time email spoofing has occurred on campus. In 2013, multiple students were targeted by the same type of email scams. In an earlier article published by The Daily Texan, Norma Guerra Gaier, University Career Services executive director, said that their office had posted a “how to identify and avoid a job scam” during that time. Six years later, students are still getting scammed.

Additionally, when I tried to locate this post, the page no longer existed. I only had access after it was emailed to me by Robert Vega, the deputy director of Enrollment Management. The post not only has accessibility issues but also does not specifically state how to protect oneself from email spoofing. 

While career center portals may put a lot of effort in ensuring job postings are legitimate and appropriate, they don’t protect students from email scams. Vega said that while college career services have a moderation process to reduce fraudulent posts on their job board, students are recommended to watch out for email spoofing on their own.   

“Texas Career Engagement has a comprehensive and robust job moderation process that we use to screen jobs,” Vega said in an email. “However, we encourage all users — students and alumni alike — to look out for scams. A challenge for students and job seekers is avoiding scammers who reach out directly to them via email, improperly identifying themselves as a Handshake employer or University-affiliated employer.” 

Seeing that years later students are still being affected by email spoofing, UT needs to do more than just post how-tos and encourage awareness. Students should be able to trust an official UT email. It should not be a “challenge” for students to avoid scammers. At the very least, students need accessible information and a university that prioritizes their safety. 

Students should not have to worry about the legitimacy of a job offer sent from an official university email address. UT needs specific security measures to defend students against email spoofing because while there are a lot of good, honest employers out in the world, there will also always be someone waiting to prey on a student’s susceptibility. 

Lopez is a rhetoric and writing sophomore from Nederland, Texas.