Students targeted in employment email scam

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A recent wave of phishing scam emails targeted Saint Louis University students looking for work. One such scam resulted in $200 lost in what Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness described as very legitimate looking interactions.

The student was contacted by an individual through email and offered a position as a representative of a company which was described as a global business consultancy. Upon responding to the email, the student was instructed to take a $2,900 check he received and deposit  it in his bank account. After depositing the check the student was told to go to a Western Union office and send $200 to some other person. The check was fraudulent and the student lost $200.

According to DPSEP these emails have been going out to multiple students. Sgt. Pasquale Signorino stated that it was impossible to know just how many people were actually receiving these emails due to the fact that some might not be reporting the incident and others might be simply ignoring the emails.

According to Investigator Mark Chambers, the lead investigator on the case, the SLU Internet Technology department tracked the IP address from the most recent emails to Taiwan. The IP address from earlier reports was located in South Africa. At least 357 students received emails from the South African IP address.

Chambers stated that the emails look like very legitimate offers and have been showing up in inboxes as opposed to being sent straight to a junk mail folder.

With every email the scammers are claiming to represent businesses that actually exist but using fake names and personal information. In the latest case the criminals claimed to represent Cypress, a business consultation firm. The email accurately described the company’s focus and had a link to the company’s actual website. The checks used in the scam were delivered by UPS and in earlier cases by FedEx.

“They identify themselves,” Chambers said. “‘My name is Richard Fryer. Here’s my address and my phone number,’ and they really come off as totally legit.”

The emails offer a position as a distributor between the company, buyers and other distributors throughout the area. They tell students they can make up to 10 percent of the money they move in a week.

The perpetrators sent the victim forged personal checks of an actual 86-year-old woman living in Stillwell, Kan.

The student realized the unusual nature of a personal check being delivered by a business upon receiving his second check. Details following the student’s transfer are hard to track because the money was sent overseas, said Signorino.

This is the third wave of reports DPSEP has received concerning fraudulent emails offering fake jobs. The most recent started on Oct. 4 and seemed to focus on international students.

The first wave, which reportedly began on Jan. 24, 2012, involved collecting emails from students applying for jobs through CareerLink. Four students reported receiving similar emails around the same time. Tellers at the on-campus bank caught all of the fraudulent checks that students attempted to deposit. CareerLink has since changed its procedures to prevent this sort of security issue.

After a wire transfer was involved the crime became a federal offense and the case has been transferred to the Secret Service. Chambers provided them with a preliminary report and DPSEP will continue to be informed as the case develops.