A Seton Hall student revealed on Oct. 12 that he was nearly scammed out of $3,000 after a University-wide phishing scam flooded the in-boxes of Seton Hall students and faculty a few weeks ago.
Freshman Ernest Peiris detailed on Facebook the days-long back and forth between him and the supposed scammer, which culminated with Peiris attempting to cash a $3,000 counterfeit check.
The email he responded to, one of three emails that were sent out on Oct. 5, came from another student’s email address that was fraudulently accessed, likely as a result of hackers obtaining access to Seton Hall email servers via phishing. In the message, which was sent to several members of the university community, the student asks for volunteers to dog sit for her aunt who is moving close to Seton Hall and asks for interested parties to reach out to “ElizabethScallan11@outlook.com” with their non-Seton Hall emails. The email advertises a pay of roughly $350 per week.
The same day the scam emails were sent out, Seton Hall IT Services also sent a University-wide email informing people that the messages were scams.
“The Department of Information Technology has intercepted the bulk of these messages and has taken preventative measures to safeguard university accounts and data,” the email read, noting that the attempts “appear to come from within the University referencing a ‘message from Human Resources’ and a job offer for pet sitting.”
In the transcripts of email and text communications that were provided by Peiris, the scammer – who went by the name Elizabeth Scallan – told the student that her husband’s financial clerk was going to send him a $3,450 check in the mail. Part of that sum was meant to be an advance on Peiris’s salary, while the rest was to be used on pet supplies and kitchen appliances which Scallan claimed her and her husband had already picked out. All that was left for Peiris to do was cash the checks and send them to the store owner via money order.
It was only after Peries attempted to cash the checks and withdraw the funds that he realized a scam may be afoot when his bank card was declined several times. After contacting his bank, they informed him he had most likely been caught up in a scam, closed his account, and forced him to pay $50 in overdraft fees.
Peiris’s experience highlighted a greater trend in financial crimes and cyber security.
A 2018 report from the Federal Trade Commission found that 40% of those ages 20-29 who made a report said they lost money through fraud, whereas only 18% of consumers age 70 or older reported a fraud and lost money.
The third most used tactic for financial crime were imposter scams.
“As the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, maybe it is,” Peiris said, “I’m mostly upset about the dogs being fake, but I’m glad I realized before being thousands in debt.”
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.