The Collegian
Thursday, May 06, 2021

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Students receive phishing email from account of UR faculty member

<p>Boatwright tower on an early October afternoon.</p>

Boatwright tower on an early October afternoon.

Students received a fraudulent email on March 8 from a hacked UR faculty email account that attempted to collect students’ personal information claiming to be a “Handshake Job Referral.” 

Using the name Alexander Tom, a person wrote in the email that they had ties to the "Children Christian Lifeline." The message promoting an opportunity to work at CCL was sent out to several UR students from the account of Mary Beth Bennett, an adjunct music faculty member.

Bennett wrote in an email to The Collegian that when people had contacted her about the message, she had tried to respond and warn them that the email was a scam.  

“It has been very distressing to have these phishing emails go out in my name,” Bennett said. “I think it is despicable that someone is taking advantage of people in the name of a religious charity. That’s very low.” 

The person who sent the email to students wrote that they had been looking for people to do humanitarian work at disability homes and hospitals in “your city.” The organization would pay students a weekly wage of $400, according to the email. 

Caroline Sisk, a first-year, said she felt upset after receiving the scam email. The person who wrote the email tried to gather students' personal information, such as banking information, she said. 

Sisk said that because the job referral was sent from a UR professor’s email, it made it easier to trust the referral. If a similar email were to be sent from a non-UR email, she said she would not have trusted it.

Moving forward, it will be more difficult to trust job referrals that come from UR emails, Sisk said. 

Sisk was disappointed with the lack of action that came from those to whom she reported the issue at UR, she said. Sisk said she felt that UR administration did not do much to help her, and that instead of support she received blame. 

Sydney Noble, a sophomore, found the email to be strange at first because it came from a UR professor, she said. Noble said she and some of her other friends believed that the email held legitimacy. 

Noble responded to the contact listed in the email and received a reply at 9 p.m. on a Saturday, she said. Noble found the timing of the reply odd, and said she did not find the reply to be professional.

The person asked Noble for her bank account information to deposit a cashier’s check for her first assignment, she said. Noble said she felt uncomfortable giving out her bank account information, and decided not to follow through with the email. 

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“It wasn't very professional,” Noble said. “And I was just like uncomfortable, and I kinda just had a feeling that I should not do it so I was like ‘thanks, but I'm not gonna do this.’”

Noble still did not think at the time that the referral could be a scam because it came from a UR email, she said. 

A few days after contacting the person who wrote the email, Noble said she talked to a member of her sorority who was scammed out of $300. The Collegian was not able to confirm whether the scam came from the same March email. 

Noble sent out a warning message about fraudulent emails to her sorority group chat to inform as many people as possible, she said. 

A message about fraudulent or phishing emails was not sent to students by UR following the March email. 

Contact news writer Jasmin Portillo at jasmin.portillo@richmond.edu.

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