Students fall victim to email scams

Beginning in late September, emails were sent to FSU students advertising “recruitment exercise for retail survey takers” which would provide “$800-$1,000 working PT/FT weekly.”

The emails offered no fee for sign up applications and ensured flexibility and fun. The job description directed students to CareerBuilder.com to apply for the posting.

However, these emails were found to be scams and falsely appeared to be sent by students themselves, using the framingham.edu email service under aliases such as Alex Beaton, Amanda Gormley, Adriana Vaughan, Alfonzo Patino and Alicia Palladino.

Lorretta Holloway, vice president of enrollment and student development, addressed the scam in an email sent to FSU students on Oct.10.

In her email, Holloway advises students who had given sensitive information such as name, address, date of birth, social security number, and bank account numbers to contact FSUPD.

Senior and Arts and Features Editor of The Gatepost Zach Colten was one of the students who fell for the scam.

Colten said, “I filled out the application and got a whole info packet in the mail with a cashier’s check for $1,800 and directions to go spend $1,500 of it at an Apple Store and keep the rest, essentially.”

Once Colten found out the email was a scam, he contacted his bank and closed his account.

Colten didn’t lose any of the money, but had a “long process of dealing with Bank of America customer service, switching debit cards, and updating monthly subscriptions.

“I lost more time than anything,” said Colten.

Sophomore Catherine Monolo also fell victim to the scam.

Monolo completed the application in early September, and did not hear back until the first week of October when a sum of $585 had been taken from her account.

“I only filled it out because in my mind, I had thought Career Services wouldn’t send out an email like this if it wasn’t a legitimate thing,” said Monolo.

“I called my bank freaking out. They told me someone who had all my info including part of my social security number seemed to have gone to a bank teller and taken out money in cash,” Monolo added.

“I had to freeze my social security number to stop anyone from doing anything with it. I’m still uneasy with the fact that they know my name, address, and other things.”

Monolo has yet to receive back the $585 she lost.

Senior Diego Rocha also received the same email. After applying for the job, Rocha received a check for $1,800 in the mail which he cashed at his bank. The check bounced and Rocha “had to pay a fee.

“I had to go to the campus police. I realized there was a scam going on, and a lot of people had been affected. I felt extremely betrayed because in a way, anything that comes from the school, I blindly trust,” said Rocha.

Rocha believes part of the problem was that “the scam seemed like it came from the school.”

Holloway attached a document to her email, “Avoiding Employment Scams,” produced by Career Services and Employment Relations (CSER), to educate students regarding possible future scams.

The document states, “Recently, nationwide reports of job scams have become commonplace on college campuses and online job boards. This criminal activity is designed to gain access to student’s money, bank account information, social security number, or identity.”

The document notes the staff in CSER do not endorse “specific job/internship postings or employers” and that although they make an effort to “validate the equality and legitimacy of postings on RamTrack, scammers are becoming harder to identify.”

CSER encourages all students to use a “critical eye” when looking at any job posting.

The document also lists the most common scams including Mystery Shopper scam, Phishing scam, and Payment Forward scam.

The Mystery Shopper scam is the most recent to appear, typically in “unsolicited e-mails or via a job board posting,” and should be avoided.

While it is common for students to receive email scams, Holloway and CSER urge students to stay alert at all times.

Donna Williams, desktop systems administrator for Information Technology at Framingham State, explained they do have spam filters that catch the “obvious ones,” but sometimes [scams] get through that need to be blocked individually.

Williams suggests students actively block any suspicious emails and “even block the domain.”

[Editor’s Note: Zach Colten is one of the editorial board members of The Gatepost.]

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