BALTIMORE — It used to be calls about college loans, now scammers are targeting students studying for standardized tests.
Lynn Lascola, a Columbia mom, recently received a call from someone claiming to be with College Board. She had just signed her son up for the SAT and wasn’t surprised to hear from the test administrator.
“She said when he took the PSAT, he checked the box saying he wanted study materials and they could send out study materials like two CD’s and other test materials and he could use that to study for the SAT and he could have that for a month,” said Lynn Lascola.
That’s when her son was scheduled to take the test.
The caller said she just needed to provide a credit card number for a $229 deposit in case Lascola didn’t return the materials.
“I’m walking downstairs to get my purse to get my credit card and then I thought about it and just some alarms are going off in my head, so I said hold on a second and I went back to my computer and I just put a google search in and it came up that this was actually a scam,” Lascola said.
Lascola found the scam warning on College Board’s website.
“From time to time, we receive reports of phone scams in which callers posing as employees of the College Board contact students and families attempting to sell test preparation products or requesting sensitive personally identifying information, such as credit card and social security numbers. These calls do not come from the College Board. We encourage families to report these calls to the FCC,” a College Board spokesperson wrote in an email to WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.
Lascola hung up on the scammer without divulging and payment or personal information, but she was concerned by how much the imposter already knew.
“She knew [my son’s] name, she knew his address,” said Lascola.
“It appears to us that the logical reasoning is that scammers bought this information, this information was leaked through data breaches,” said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving greater Maryland.
Barnett added that this is a fairly new scam and having that personal information tricks parents into believing the caller.
“The way they most often get them engaged is by saying, ‘I’d like to speak to the parent of,’ and very quickly parents will say that’s me and that’s how the scammer launches the dialogue,” said Barnett.
Victims that have fallen for this scam say they never received the materials and in some cases, have shared more than they should.
“Date of birth that has been asked for before,” said Barnett. “They might even give enough information for the scammer to begin the early stages of identity theft.”
A spokesperson wrote:
"Regarding Student Search Service, it’s free and voluntary (students can opt in online or when they take an assessment. We provide extensive information about how we protect student data and privacy on this webpage: https://studentsearch.collegeboard.org/ (if you go down to the “Your Data Matters” section it says we never share phone numbers)."
Through the Student Search Service, students can share their information, test scores, and test registration dates with accredited colleges, universities, nonprofit scholarship programs and nonprofit educational organizations.
The spokesperson added that College Board would never call students or parents out of the blue to sell something and to report scam calls to the Federal Communications Commission.
For more information on what College Board shares with third-parties, click here.