Up to 90 Chinese students at the University of Washington may have lost $1 million in a tuition payment scam this summer, The Seattle Times reported yesterday. Scammers offered students a 5% discount on their summer tuition if they paid them the other 95%. This left the victims out of over $10,000 each, with their tuition unpaid.
Investigators are unsure of who’s behind the fraud. Some UW students say they saw it advertised by a fellow student over WeChat. WeChat is a social media platform popular in China. Sophomore George Zhou, who may be a victim, says the student was active in the UW community. She was well-known because of her involvement and peers trusted her.
Students gave the scammers their UW login information and 95% of their tuition money. Tuition was paid at first, but with stolen credit card numbers. UW caught on and the payments never went through. Some students were also duped into paying their rent and utilities through the scheme. The UW police department knows so far of 19 definite victims. The school’s financial service office is investigating dozens of more cases.
Sophomore Amanda He told the Seattle Times that international students often have difficulty paying. The scam especially harmed these students as a result.
“It’s very upsetting for the entire community,” Jesse Chen of Pike International Student Services told the Seattle Times.
The investigation is continuing. No arrests have yet been made, UWPD investigator Lieutenant Doug Schultz said to the Times. He advised students never to give personal information to strangers. “Sound too good to be true? It is!” the UWPD said in a Facebook post warning about the scam.
Lead image credit: Wen Zeng on Flickr