CCC employees fall for email scam

It seems like there’s a scam around every corner these days. Even our public institutions are at risk of being targeted. 

  Locally, a particularly insidious phishing scam has been used to defraud citizens. Emails were received, claiming to be from the Oregon City Police Department, telling people to pay fines over the phone using prepaid Visa cards. Captain Edwins, of the Oregon City Police Department, spoke with us this week. His main concerns are the elderly and their vulnerabilities to this type of scam. “Recently someone phished an elderly person in Oregon City using a Publisher’s Clearing House scheme, and the scammer got $100,000 from the man. The level of psychological manipulation is astounding.”

Here on the CCC campus, someone impersonating a member of the college administration asked employees to pay for gift cards using their own money. Of course, the employees were told they would be immediately reimbursed by the school for doing this. Wrong. That money is gone.

According to an email obtained by The Print, two CCC employees lost a combined $2,500 of their own funds when they were scammed into believing they were making some necessary purchases for Tara Sprehe, the dean of Academic Foundations and Connections. 

A gofundme page has been set up to help employees recoup the funds. As of March 26, $2,162 has been raised. Almost there! In an interview with The Print, Sprehe declined to give more details, including names of the employees who were scammed. 

 CCC employees are required to take numerous online training courses that warn of sophisticated scamming attacks. Tim Cook, President of CCC, when asked about the fraud, had this to add; “It’s amazing how sophisticated the fraud is becoming. Check and verify your emails thoroughly, be careful when opening them. No one from the college is going to be asking anybody to buy gift cards, or for odd financial requests.”

Without even knowing it, any one of us  might have been targeted by one of these scams. Phishing scammers are extremely hard to catch. Fake email addresses and burner smartphones make committing these crimes simple, and just as easy for the criminals to simply destroy the phone and disappear afterwards. The money from the cards is transferred online and from there, gets very difficult to trace.

Let’s say you get a suspicious email that looks like it’s from your boss. They ask you for your phone number so they can contact you, as they’re out of the office. Next, you receive a text from the boss, asking you to run an errand at lunch; Head to Walgreens and buy $500 in $50 visa gift cards for an employee event. They seem rushed and want you to feel a sense of urgency. That urgency is there for a big reason. When someone feels pressured by a superior, they’re less likely to analyze the scenario, and more likely to comply. 

Now consider the variables: Did your employer call you by name, or did it seem a little generalized? Why didn’t they have your number on their phone? Why do they need you to do this? Have they ever asked you to do anything like this before, or under these circumstances? 

Experts say, if this seems fishy, that’s because it’s phishy. 

Check the email address. Look up the phone number. Call your boss directly. At least try to verify some of the information before you make a costly mistake. Better yet, politely tell them that you can’t afford to do this for them right now; that way, if (for some strange reason) this is your superior, you haven’t made an enemy.

Once you’ve verified that it isn’t anyone you know, take the email and other information you have about this to your local police department. They can take the data and get it to people in law enforcement that handle these crimes. Who knows, maybe you’ll keep someone you know from being scammed in the future.

With more incidents of fraud popping up all the time in our communities, we should all think hard about the security of our personal and business data. We’re not saying to distrust every email you get, just scrutinize the sources and the content of anything that doesn’t seem normal. When even our police departments are falsely implicated by these scams, what hurdles won’t they jump in order to get your trust and money?

           The CCC IT Department had this to say about the situation:

“To avoid falling victim to such scams, we recommend that you take the following steps:

  1. Verify the authenticity of the request: Always verify the sender’s identity before responding to any email or text requesting personal information or money. Look for signs such as misspelled words or suspicious email addresses that could indicate a phishing attempt. If in doubt, contact the person directly via another means of communication to confirm the request.
  2. Be wary of gift card requests: Be suspicious of any requests for funds through gift cards, as these are often used by scammers to launder money.
  3. Never share sensitive information: Never share your passwords or financial information with anyone. Be cautious of clicking on links in emails or texts that could lead to fake websites that steal your personal information.
  4. Report suspicious activity: If you receive a suspicious email or text, report it immediately to our ITS team or your supervisor. ”

Gabriel Lucich