Tag Archives: Texas

Davidson County Schools among about 20 districts hit by phishing scams

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.

Overconfident e-mail recipients helping phishing succeed

New York, Jan 9 (IANS) Most of the people believe they are smarter than those behind email phishing scams which is why so many fall easily into a trap and lose money, an Indian-origin researcher has found.

According to H.R. Rao from University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), overconfident e-mail recipients are helping phishing succeed.

“A big advantage for phishers is self efficacy. Many times, people think they know more than they actually do and are smarter than someone trying to pull of a scam via an e-mail,” said Rao who is AT&T Distinguished Chair in Infrastructure Assurance and Security.

Today, phishing e-mails often look like messages from companies ordinary people recognise and trust.

“They’re getting very good at mimicking the logos of popular companies,” Rao noted.

In his study, Rao utilised an experimental survey that had subjects choose between the genuine and the sinister e-mails that he and his colleagues had created for the project.

Afterward, the subjects explained why they made their choices, which allowed Rao to classify which type of overconfidence was playing a role in their decision-making processes.

According to Rao, people will continue to be victimised by phishing scams until the public becomes better educated and, subsequently, less overconfident.

“Thousands of e-mails are sent out every day with the aim of harming someone or gaining access to their financial information. Avoiding that kind of damage is entirely in our own hands,” Rao suggested in a paper that appeared in the Journal of the Association for Information Systems.



City publicly addresses being scammed out of millions in streetcar project

The city of El Paso and the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority were scammed out of more than $3 million that was meant to be used to pay for the downtown streetcar project, city leaders said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Officials said they had known of the scheme for several weeks but were advised by law enforcement officials not to make it public.

City officials revealed that the city was a victim of a vendor phishing scam. More than half of the missing money has since been recovered.

Phishing is the attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.

An investigation began in early October when a comptroller notified the internal auditor that the city was a possible victim of a phishing scam resulting in the loss of nearly $300,000.

According to the news release, the loss was reported to law enforcement officials, prompting local law enforcementagencies and the FBI to launch an investigation.

In mid-October the city of El Paso and the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority discovered an additional $2.9 million in misdirected funds.

Since the discovery of the scam, city leaders said it has changed its vendor payment process and is now issuing paper checks to people who do business with the city.

Reporter Tomas Hoppough asked Mayor Oscar Lesser what the city’s plan is if it can’t recover money from the scam.

Lesser responded, “We’ll continue to work with law enforcement and work with the city attorney to make sure that whatever is required of us we so cooperate with them.”

At this time, local law enforcement officials and the FBI are trying to recover the stolen money and find the person(s) responsible.

As of Wednesday, $292,000 of the $300,000 and nearly $1.6 million of the $2.9 million had been recovered.

Authorities are still trying to recover the remaining $1.4 million.

When the mayor was asked if the city had conducted a background check of its vendors, Lesser replied, “We’re not going to give you any more information in regards to the investigation.”

Raymond Telles, the executive director for the CRRMA told KFOX14 in 2015 the project was costing $97 million, the majority funded by the Texas Department of Transportation. Some $4.9 million of the funding came from the city of El Paso.