They’re back! As of this writing, we’re not sure who’s behind them but fake Facebook Class of 2014 groups featuring fake students who have nothing to do with your institution are popping up at a college near you. And, for that matter, a college near me.
If you recall back to December, Brad J. Ward, now of BlueFuego, discovered and blogged about an alarming pattern where the same people kept showing up over and over as administrators of Class of 2013 groups at various colleges. A small dorky band of Web types — including this author — dug in and found 250+ fake class groups created by the same band of individuals. We feared the worst — identity theft, data harvesting — but eventually discovered that College Prowler, publishers of an alternative guide, were behind it. While less harmful than expected, that I researched colleges in New York and found the vast majority of Class of 2013 groups were College Prowler fakes was startling … and eye-opening.
Now, after sleuthing by New Paltz’s ever-alert Rachel Reuben, she and Brad are warning people once again about fake Class of 2014 groups. Many of the members are the same and contain the same boilerplate:
“This is THE best place for all the incoming freshmen/transfers of the Class of 2014. Just for those heading to ______ in 2010, this will be the group where we can talk about what’s going on and around campus.”
Proof? Check out this bogus Oswego Class of 2014 Facebook group:
And this one for the University at Buffalo (with bonus fight song):
And this one for Covenant College:
Sense a pattern? Just from what Rachel and I found, similar groups propagated at Swarthmore College, Widener University School of Law, University of the Arts, University of Pennsylvania, Ohio University, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, St. Andrew’s University, Muhlenberg College, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, California University of Pennsylvania, Middlebury College, Towson University and Marymount Manhattan College.
But one lesson I learned from last year was to create an Official SUNY Oswego Class of 2014 Group. Just today, as luck would have it, we started promoting the real group on our Facebook Fans page in concert with our first major admissions open house. If we use our current online resources and the communication avenues of the institution, we can make it clear this is a real community related to SUNY Oswego.
I won’t lie. I was a skeptic. I really wasn’t sure I wanted to add an official 2014 group to the fold … until I realized someone else is always out there looking for your valuable name. Yes, valuable! Your college (or company or not-for-profit) spends so much time and resources to get a good name, so do you really want someone else stealing it for nefarious (TBD) purposes? My full intention is to turn the official 2014 group over to some capable students I know so it is student-run, by real students from Oswego.
What about you? If you’re at another college, have you checked to see if someone else is using your name? And if so, are you prepared to ensure you have official spaces to build real communities with your future students?