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CCCApply Abuses Linked to Student Aid Fraud

August 31, 2021

College Admissions and Financial Aid signAdmission application spam has long been a problem for the California Community Colleges, with scammers abusing the CCCApply online application system to illegally obtain student email addresses for financial gain.

Worrying reports of increased student aid fraud have again put fraudulent use of CCCApply in the spotlight. Now the CCC Chancellor’s Office is asking colleges for their help in identifying bogus admission applications before they can get through the system and allow fake accounts to be generated.

Admission application fraud occurs during the creation of a student’s account in OpenCCC and CCCApply. Financial aid-related fraud can only occur once a college has accepted an application and issued a student ID.

How the Tech Center is Addressing Fraud

Because student aid fraud is often linked to nonexistent or ineligible students, stemming the proliferation of fake accounts created through OpenCCC during the CCCApply application process is essential to mitigate the problem in the California Community Colleges.

Fraud detection is built into the student account creation process via the CCCApply spam filter. However, the spam filter is only reliable when colleges actively participate in the process. The Chancellor’s Office, CCC Technology Center, and CCC Information Security Center are coordinating outreach to college staff about the importance of locally monitoring the spam filter and flagging suspicious applications. Done on a regular basis, this process helps the spam filter algorithm learn patterns and better detect fraud.

Because attempted fraud has increased, the volume of fraudulent applications a college receives may be overwhelming. In these cases, Technology Center implementation staff work with college staff to collaborate on solutions.

Additionally, starting this fall, CCCApply will require two-factor authentication during account creation as an extra security step to strengthen automated confirmation of real applicants.

The Technology Center has also deployed advanced bot protection for web application firewalls to further secure account creation and application submission systems. Other potential technology solutions are being researched as well.

In October, the Information Security Center, Technology Center, and the Chancellor’s Office will host a half-day online workshop on fraud detection and mitigation. College staff involved with admissions, student aid, student services, and IT are encouraged to attend, however, the workshop is open to all CCC personnel. More information about the October workshop will be available soon.