28th February 2024 5:45 am
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Convincing “NSFAS” apps are stealing student information

  • NSFAS is warning applicants that it has not yet launched an official mobile app and any other mobile apps circulating are unofficial.
  • The scheme says that these apps are run by criminals for the purpose of stealing personal information from students.
  • One particular app seems legitimate but it too is being used by threat actors to harvest important data from young people.

Ahead of the opening of NSFAS applications for 2024, students are being warned that the official NSFAS app has yet to launch on mobile, and those apps that exist are unofficial, and worst still, may be used to steal personal information.

“NSFAS has discovered several bogus mobile apps operating online under the NSFAS’ name. Please note that all these ARE FAKE and being used by criminals to steal personal details,” the scheme warned on its official X account, reiterating that it has yet to launch an official application.

Among its other woes, fake apps are circulating on the Google App Store and other marketplaces like APKPure. Examples include NSFAS SA, NSFAS Help and Appeals, NSFAS Inspect, My NSFAS, and a highly convincing application called just NSFAS. Some of these fake apps are many years old.

With respect to the “NSFAS” application, it looks like the real deal, so much so if we did not have official word that there was no mobile app from the scheme we may have believed it was legitimate.

The fake NSFAS app, one of many, on the Google Store Page.

The app in question, launched in September 2022, can be found on the Google App Store right now and has over 500 downloads, with no ratings or reviews. According to screenshots on the store page you can use the app to fill out and send NSFAS applications and track the status of existing applications through a professional-looking UI.

“Apply for funding, access important updates related to your existing funding, or update your myNSFAS account details on the APP now,” a blurb for the fake application states. This app goes as far as listing the correct address for the NSFAS contact centre. It received an update as recently as November 2023.

This app, as well as all others, is fake and is used to farm personal details from students, including IDs, proof of income, information about your SASSA status, academic information, mobile number and personal images, all of which are required to apply to NSFAS.

To our eye, the only bit of listed information that may give a hint that this particular app is fake, other than the launch date, is that it lists “LicenseManager(at)nsfas.org.za” as its support email. While this may be an official email, it’s an address we have not been able to find listed on any official NSFAS information page and only appears on the Play Store page for this fake app.

According to a report from EWN, NSFAS is actively working to take down some of these apps, including the above app.

More fake NSFAS apps on APKPure.

“We are looking to introduce a biometric system for our website. It’s also going to address the tardiness that emerges when we have to interact with our third-party partners,” said scheme spokesperson Slumeza Skosana, a more permanent solution to putting a stop to these bogus apps tricking applicants.

With your personal information being sent to criminals, not only do you waste your time on useless applications, but you also risk having your data either sold on the dark web or used in other scams, such as phishing and catfishing.

Immediately after opening applications last week, NSFAS provisionally approved 76 000 applications for the 2024 academic year. For more information on how to apply to NSFAS, check out our handy guide.

[Image – Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash]

Luis Monzon

Luis Monzon

Journalist. Covering education, AAA gaming and consumer tech. Reach me at Luis@htxt.co.za.

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