Thousands of Loyola students are members of Facebook groups where they organize events and communicate about life on campus. But some of those groups are run by bogus accounts which might seek to collect students’ information or sell them suspicious products and services.
Many administrator accounts of several groups for graduating classes at Loyola — the pages for the classes of 2022, 2021, 2020 and 2018 — have no affiliation with Loyola, few to no Facebook friends, no personal information and few photos. The page for the class of 2019 appeared to be legitimate.
All together, the pages have close to 10,000 members and are widely used by students to post information about classes, student groups, housing and events on campus.
Many of the accounts were members of hundreds of similar groups at other universities and posted identical messages in different groups.
The Phoenix attempted to contact the accounts but hasn’t heard back at the time of publication.
Having few photos, little or suspicious information and not responding to messages are telltale signs of a fake social media account, according to Internet security company McAfee.
Two of the groups, Loyola University Chicago Class of 2022 and Loyola University Chicago Class of 2021, claim to be official university-run groups but have no current or former Loyola students or faculty administering the page. The Class of 2021 page even includes contact information for Loyola’s Residence Life.
Those accounts can be used to trick people into thinking they’re real. Hackers can use them to steal personal information, and companies can use them to make a product or service seem more popular than it really is.
“That’s really scary,” said first-year marketing major Taylor Truckenbrod, who said she’s a member of the class of 2021 Facebook group. “If you see something that has Loyola’s name on it you assume it’s affiliated with Loyola, not that it could potentially harm you.”
At least two of the accounts, both under the name Samuel Huang, have no identifying information and just one photo, but are members of hundreds of pages that look like they’re meant for college students. They often ask for people’s phone numbers, email addresses and social media accounts, share forms asking for details such as addresses and fields of study, and share identical posts with links to the site OneClass, which promises to pay students for sharing notes and writing blog posts.
Since 2016, OneClass has been associated with phishing scams seeking to steal users’ personal information at the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia.
The Loyola University Chicago Class of 2022 page was created by an account for a company called Roomsurf, which students can pay to match them with a roommate. Roomsurf isn’t associated with Loyola’s office of admissions.
Roomsurf has been accused of posing as official university pages before.
In 2010, the New York Times reported accounts created by RoomSurf had created welcome pages for newly accepted students at more than 150 universities across the country to recruit more customers to its site, which can only recommend students live together and has no authority over the admissions and housing process.
RoomSurf didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
When The Phoenix told Facebook of the suspicious accounts, a spokesperson said they’d investigate the situation. No further information was immediately available.
In an email statement to The Phoenix, Loyola spokesperson Evangeline Politis said the purposes of the fake accounts was likely to steal students’ personal information. She recommended students be skeptical of any suspicious online pages or accounts.
“As with any unsolicited requests, you should always look at them with a jaded eye and assume that there is a malicious intent,” Politis said. “If something is too good to be true (for example, test answers), it probably is.”
Politis said Loyola could warn students of potential dangers, but didn’t offer any specifics on whether they would do so in this case.
“Once the sites are brought to our attention, we can warn students and alumni not to sign up and demand the sites be taken down, especially if it violates our trademark,” Politis said. “With it being so easy and somewhat anonymous to create a social media site, prevention is really not a possibility. Reactive removal is the best way to protect the University.”
Senior marketing and psychology Monserrat Ibanez said she uses the class of 2018 group regularly to post about housing and events on campus and has even posted some personal information there. She said she’ll probably leave the page now that she knows of the risks and thinks Loyola should let students know the pages could pose a danger.
“You know they send out all those emails about … tuition going up?” the 22-year-old Mexico City native said. “[Loyola should do] something similar so people can be aware that this is going on [and] beware of the information you put online.”
First-year Taylor Vrchota agreed. She said she’ll be more careful when using the page and might even leave altogether.
“I would definitely think twice before clicking on the links,” Vrchota, a health systems management major, said. “I would definitely like to see Loyola do something about it.”