Taking Back the ID

Identity thieves target university employees and students

When Winston Franklin began working for a university he signed up for the direct deposit option for his monthly check. He later checked his online bank account and was surprised to see that his last payroll check hadn't shown up as a deposit. Franklin immediately contacted his bank, which checked its records and told Winston that the university hadn't deposited his paycheck.

A university payroll employee told him that the department had deposited the check, but when it reviewed the direct deposit transactions for the month, it discovered that Winston recently had changed his direct deposit information. He then remembered that he had received an email purporting to be from the university notifying him that a change had been made in his human relations resource status. The fraudulent message contained a link that directed him to log in to the human resources website to note the change. Unfortunately, that site was a phony copy. A fraudster then stole Winston's username and password and changed his direct deposit information, which redirected his paycheck to the fraudster's bank account.

University employee payroll scheme

Although the case is fictional, the facts are real and representative of a new scheme the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) posted in a January 13, public service announcement.

The IC3 reports the scam's consequences:

  • Fraudsters can steal an employee's paycheck.
  • The employee might not receive the money back. 
  • The fraudsters can use the employee's login credentials and log into his or her other accounts.

The IC3 provides these protective tips:

  • Look for incorrect grammar, capitalization and tenses. Many of the fraudsters aren't native English speakers.
  • When you roll your cursor over the links you've received via email you might find a totally different URL than your employer's payroll site.
  • Don't provide any credentials via email, especially after clicking on links in the email. Always enter the official payroll website URL to check on your status and not via the email link.


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