October 25, 2021

Syltel Lovely

Singularly Lovely Education

Fake students flood community colleges in financial aid scam

In summary

Bots are filling up community college classes in a likely attempt by scammers to fraudulently access COVID-19 relief grants and other financial aid. At least 10 districts or individual colleges told CalMatters they’ve been affected, and the community college system has announced new security measures to combat the scam.

On the first day of spring term this year, an aeronautics professor came to administrator Laura Hope to share something suspicious: Most of the students in his virtual class weren’t participating at all.

Hope, the head of instruction at Chaffey College, a community college in Southern California’s Inland Empire, dove into the college’s records to find out why. 

The shocking answer? These weren’t real students, but scammers likely out to bilk taxpayers of millions of dollars in financial aid. Faculty and staff caught onto the scam before any dollars went out, Hope said. If they hadn’t, about $1.7 million would have landed in the hands of fraudsters.