College Suffers from Digital Identity Theft

Monday, February 28, 2011

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The Wall Street Journals reports that  small Pacific Northwest college is struggling to rectify problems associated with a case of digital identity theft, of a sort.

Reed College, an exclusive liberal arts school located in Portland, Oregon, is attempting to have an illicit website shut down before it potentially damages the esteemed school's reputation.

The website in question is for a "University of Redwood", a fictitious school set up  as a scam in order to bilk potential students from overseas out of application fees and personally identifiable information.

The website for the bogus school pilfered information and photographs from Reed's website, including the biographies of faculty and the school's history.

"Whoever did this went to some trouble to clone a good deal of material from the first three layers of the Reed College site and change all mentions of Reed to Redwood," said Reed's CTO Martin Ringle.

A shrewd scammer could wait several weeks, then issue a rejection letter, and the student would never know," Ringle stated.

Reed officials noticed the problem in October, 2010, and petitioned web host GoDaddy to remove the site, which the company did for a short period of time.

GoDaddy said the site was allowed to return to service after the material in question was removed, though it still remains today.

"Our lawyers are seeking to shut the faux Redwood site down," said a spokesman for Reed College, Kevin Myers.

Problems surrounding the protection of a digital identity are not just a matter of concern for individuals, as businesses and private organizations are also subject to the threat of "identity theft" by criminal enterprises.

Bogus websites, spoofed emails with real company logos, and websites with names engineered to resemble legitimate business are used by criminal networks on a regular basis.

Though the targets of the scams are most often individuals, the cumulative damage to an organization's reputation and their ability to adequately conduct business affairs when their identity is used in a scam can be serious and long lasting.

For example, how long has it been since you did not think twice about opening a Hallmark email card? Though Hallmark was not responsible for any malfeasance, they still suffered from the stigma attached to phishing, spam, and malware activities by others.

Whether you are an individual or the representative of an organization, monitoring a digital identity for fraudulent activity can be as simple as regularly conducting "vanity" searches on the Internet.

Conduct the searches with and without the use of quotation marks, use common variations in the spelling of key words or names, and conduct searches with initials and abbreviations as well.

Also, registering your official profile on popular social networks even if you do not expect to participate actively assures no one else will take it upon themselves to do so to conduct scams, phishing, and social engineering operations in your name or the name of your organization.

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