In what appears to be the prelude to a massive identity theft scam, fake ‘Class of 2013’ groups have been opened at Facebook, luring students at a long list of U.S. universities to sign up. The administrators of those groups could potentially gather a lot of personal information on class members.

Brad Ward, an admissions officer at Butler University, broke the story on his blog late last week, after discovering that the same three ‘new students’ were behind the brand new Facebook sites for 2009 freshman classes at dozens of U.S. universities. And it turned out they weren’t really ‘new students’ at any of the schools listed.

“Think of it:” Ward theorizes. “Sitting back for 8-10 months, (even a few years), maybe friending everyone and posing as an incoming student. Think of the data collection. The opportunities down the road to push affiliate links. The opportunity to appear to be an ‘Admin’ of Your School Class of 2013. The chance to message alumni down the road. The list of possibilities goes on and on and on.”

Ward called on fellow University admissions adminmistrators to set up official class of 2013 Facebok sites and promote them aggressively to their new students. Ward also suggested that universities may have toi seek Facebook’s help in taking down the bogus class groups.

As for students… The usual cautions when dealing with online communities apply. Most importantly: Don’t give out personal information online!

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