Phishing scams similar to the one that collected the W-2s and personal information of approximately 3,200 Davidson County Schools employees have hit at least 20 other school systems across the country over the past two years. In at least one case, the scam was traced back to Russia, and authorities say that may be the case here.
Each of the school systems that fell victim to the scams received emails whose sender posed as the district superintendent and requested employees’ W-2 forms or personal information.
Though many of the scams are still under investigation, Central Illinois Proud – a website for two television stations in Illinois – reported Jan. 31 that an email used to trick an employee of the Morton School District there into releasing names and Social Security numbers of employees was traced back to Russia.
Davidson County Sheriff David Grice said the phishing scam that targeted Davidson County Schools remains under investigation, so he couldn’t say definitively that it originated in Russia. However, he said, “there is a strong possibility in our situation that is the case.”
Grice said scams such as these typically seem to be working out of countries like Great Britain and Russia.
Dr. Lory Morrow, Davidson County Schools superintendent, could not be reached for comment regarding updated information on the scam. The school system has created a page on its website to answer victims’ frequently asked questions.
The number of people affected by the phishing scams varied from district to district. The School District of Manatee County, in Florida, inadvertently released the information of 7,700 employees on Feb. 6, according to an article in the Bradenton Herald. In the Barron Area School District, in Wisconsin, five employees’ information was sent to the unknown scammer on Feb. 15, the Barron News-Shield reported.
Barron Area’s numbers are considered an outlier in comparison to the rest of the school districts who sent off information, with the next lowest number of employees affected landing at 400 in the Brunswick School Department, in Maine.
Brunswick was targeted on March 31, 2016; however the employee who sent out the information was wary enough of the email to mark through dates of birth and Social Security numbers of the employees before sending the information. When the scammer responded and requested the forms to be sent again with all of the information, administrators within the system realized the request was not valid, the Bangor Daily News reported.
Three out of the 20 cases affecting school districts were in Texas, including: Argyle Independent School District, which sent employees’ W-2 information on Jan. 20; Corsicana Independent School District, which was hit Feb. 8; and the Belton Independent School District, which released the information for 1,700 of its employees on Jan. 27. The news agencies that reported on these scams were NBCFW5, Corsicana Daily Sun and CENTV, respectively.