By: Mihaela Manova

“Congratulations! You are invited to join the Honor Society.” 

Although the email claims that accepting this offer will connect you with “like-minded high achievers from your university and across the nation,” Miami University tech officials say students should be wary of the organization’s persistent invitations. 

As the spring semester kicks off, students have begun checking their emails for correspondence from their professors about their new classes. But in the midst of these welcome messages from professors, a new stream of questionable emails has made its way to the inbox of the student body.

The Honor Society, a seemingly-prestigious academic organization has made it to Miami students’ Gmail accounts, with some students reporting receiving multiple emails a day.   

“We have not seen an Honors Society attack, no one has told us about one,” said John Virden, assistant vice president for security compliance and risk management. “[Students should expect that], that’s not an uncommon thing. There’s a lot of scams for job employment and internships [too]… 

“Chances are, a real honor society is not going to reach out to a student to get their business,” Virden said.

Despite the email’s legitimate-looking design, students should beware of its content. Upon logging into the Honor Society website, users are asked to pay $65 for a membership fee. 

“I have gotten many of the emails from the Honor Society. I’ve gotten them in high school, too, starting my junior year. It died down until the end of the semester, when I started receiving them again,” said first-year pre-med student Caitlin Flynn. “I get around two to three a day.”

The influx of emails is a pattern that is seen throughout its recipients, with some receiving upward of 10-15 emails a day. 

“I am worried that it may confuse some students and get themselves into a sticky situation, and I hope we stop receiving them soon if they aren’t legitimate,” said first-year child psychology major Gwendolyn Peters.

Not only is the influx of emails grabbing the attention of students, but the deadline the Honor Society gives puts the students at unease about grasping the “opportunity.” First-year medical laboratory major Sydney Cusac agrees, as she has lots of emails warning her of approaching deadlines.

David Seidl, Miami’s vice president for information technology and CIO, said these emails are exceptionally common, yet he hasn’t heard of this new wave of honor society dupes.

Virden said there are a couple explanations for how these companies are getting student email addresses, one of which is that all Miami emails are public and can be searched up. The Miami standard format of each student email can also be guessed. 

“There is a second and easier way for the bad-actors to get the email addresses,” Virden said. “A lot of [students and staff] use their email address with other accounts, like Target or Facebook or other social media.”

Seidl agreed with this explanation.

“The likelihood is that it is coming from one of the areas that [Virden] pointed to, where there are existing lists rather than having the work to do it,” Seidl said.

There is no security breach at Miami, as these emails are ones that the system can’t pick up as spam directly. To notify the university of any other false honor societies, internships and job opportunities, email [email protected].

(This story was originally published to The Miami Student)

Mihaela Manova is the Covering Climate Now Editor for Loveland Magazine. She is a 2020 graduate of Loveland High School and attends Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
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