Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When is an email scam not an email scam?

Late Saturday night I received an email from Ryerson University reminding us that students need an official GO Transit student ID in order to purchase and use student 10-ride and monthly passes. The discounts are on the order of 40% off the adult price, but since the card is free it couldn't hurt to apply for one even if you live in the 416. A close friend of mine has an apartment only a few minutes from campus, but she goes home to the Niagara region every other weekend. With daily GO bus service to Niagara starting in the fall, she'll be able to puchase a student 10-ride ticket and save money over the cost of Greyhound or Coach Canada. In the past, the process has been to fill out a form on campus and take it to Union Station to be validated. Uptown schools like York University have an online process where students apply online and have the card sent in the mail, and according the email, Ryerson was moving down the same direction - but there was something phisy about the communication.

Whereas York students use their online administrative management website, Passport York, to apply for the card, Ryerson was asking me to send my name and address over email. Since my email is published so that anyone reading this blog can contact me, I get a half-dozen emails every day telling me that I have won the UK national lottery / had my Chase bank account frozen / been selected to smuggle several million dollars out of Nigeria and that all I had to do is sent in my personal information. Once, I even received and email from the FBI saying that I had been implicated in a Nigerian bank scam and that I needed to send my personal information to clear my name (now that one was crafty, I must say). Suffice to say, I was very suspicious of the email.

Monday morning I contacted the University, and they were able to confirm that the email was legitimate. They said that they were planning to migrate the process to the online administrative website RAMSS, but they didn't meet the deadline and had to use this as a last resort. I'm very happy that Ryerson is moving away from the old method of applying, since this means one less hour-long line to stand in during registration week. Knowing that it isn't a scam is also great news for the people who sent in their information without a second thought. But, I really wish that Ryerson had made it look less like an email scam. It's fairly easy to disguise your email address, and seeing "@ryerson.ca" doesn't necessarily mean that the message is an official communication.

Do whatever it takes to protect your identity online, especially if you want to have good credit or if you want to be a homeowner one day. But, apply for the GO student ID card if you're eligible. It's a great way to save on daily or occasional travel.

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