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Students targeted in phone fraud

University administrators have sent out an e-mail alerting students about fraudulent phone calls attempting to gain students’ personal information, including information about financial aid awards. The University said it has sent more than 50,000 e-mails warning that an individual has been calling students, claiming to be a representative of the USF Financial Aid office, and that students should not release any personal information over the phone.

University spokesman Ken Gullette said the University will not attempt to reach students through the phone and that individuals should exercise serious caution any time these inquiries do not come from a USF e-mail service or through Peer 360. The University will typically contact a student only in response to specific questions made by the student, or as a follow-up to a counseling appointment.

Students can recognize fraudulent calls if the staff member doesn’t identify him or herself with a full name and title. Also, all Tampa campus phones will start with an area code 813 and the prefix 974. “This is not uncommon,” Gullette said. “People need to understand that anytime people call them on the phone asking for personal information, it’s a fraud.”

This is the second incident this year in which the University has issued a warning concerning a “phishing” attempt. In April, the USF Federal Credit Union notified its customers that an e-mail was providing students with an embedded link to a realistic-looking Web site with a near-identical login.

Gullette said the University has alerted the proper authorities and is not sure how the individual received students’ phone numbers.

“It’s important for students to know that USF is not releasing their personal information,” Gullette said. “We take student confidentiality very seriously.

Whether it is done by e-mail or by telephone, con artists use many methods to track down their targets. The important thing to remember is that even if the caller sounds convincing, don’t give out any personal information on the phone.”