College Student Caught In Email Phishing Scam

L.P. Phillips
May 07, 2019 - 11:20 am
Computer Keyboard, Hackers, Email

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DALLAS (1080 KRLD) - UPDATED 5:50 P.M. WEDNESDAY:

North Central Texas College system is taking steps to stop a student-targeting scam in its tracks, following a KRLD News story. The community college has sent all faculty and staff an e-mail warning of a secret shopper scam.

"Recently, The North Central Texas College Police Department received reports of alleged 'scam' emails in which the sender fraudulently portrayed themselves as NCTC Career Services or Job Placement personnel." the e-mail says. "These communications were not affiliated with North Central Texas College, nor did they come from a valid NCTC email address."

The school's IT department is working to track down where the e-mail came from and how the scammer hacked into the system.

"Our IT department really is looking at some additional security and fraud training that we can add to our student orientation so that students are going to be familiar with this before it happens." said Elizabeth Abu, spokeswoman for NCTC.

 

When it comes to eating or paying tuition, college students will often choose the latter. Many are cash-starved and sorely in need of extra money. Against that backdrop, scammers are cashing in on a demographic that isn't flush with cash. And they are using school e-mail accounts to accomplish the goal.

Students are getting notices in their school e-mail accounts encouraging them to apply for a job as a secret shopper. In reality it is a new twist on an old scam.

The hook, in the reboot, is the use of the school account.

Take the example of North Central Texas College student Nicholas Lavine. He opened his e-mail to find a notice from Brittany Bendure of the NCTC Job Placement & school Services (sic). 

"It was from someone who was like in the job placement program, and it talked about part time work and it had this link to this Timecode Outsourcing." said Lavine.

He clicked on the link. An authentic-looking webpage opened. At the same time, so did a source into Lavine's bank account. 

Lavine received an application which quickly accepted him as a secret shopper. And here is where the old scam resurfaced.

Timecode Outsourcing sent Lavine two checks. In each case he was instructed to deposit the checks into his bank account. Then he was to use part of the money to buy gift cards from either Wal Mart or Apple. 

"The check was for about $1,300 to $1,500 to buy two give cards with 500 each on them. And you keep the rest as commission." he said.

Lavine was told to give Timecode Outsourcing the account numbers on each gift card.

The plan seemed to be going fine, until Lavine got a notice from his bank. Neither of the checks had cleared. Lavine had effectively used his own money to buy cards, and whoever set up the site cashed them before the reality of the scam became evident. What's worse, the college student had no way to get the money back.

"They drain the money from the cards. And basically, they were fake checks that I was sent." Lavine said.

Lavine lost $1,200 of his own money.

It ends up Timecode Outsourcing has a history of fleecing people. The Better Business Bureau became aware of, what the Bureau calls, a scam involving Timecode Outsourcing, and there have been news reports from other victims reporting the exact same method.

Then there is that e-mail in Lavine's inbox. 

"It's definitely not coming from the school." said Elizabeth Abu of NCTC.

She adds the college does not have a job placement office, and there is nobody named Brittany Bendure.

For Lavine it's a lesson that's not on any college syllabus.

"I thought the pay was a little high but I wasn't going to question it." he said. "I saw the figures they were going to give me and I thought 'hey I might as well give it a try.' Didn't realize this would happen.

NCTC is urging its students to call if they have questions about suspicious e-mails and Abu is telling students to delete any e-mail from the non-existent Job Placement & school Services office.