Coastal Carolina University was scammed out of approximately $1.1 million and is working with multiple law enforcement agencies to investigate the phishing scams that happened in December, according to a news release.
Two similar incidents happened around Dec. 9 when an individual claiming to represent a company under contract with the university contacted CCU via email to request a change in the company’s bank account information, CCU said.
The fraudsters provided “what appeared to be official documents that included the company’s logo, tax ID numbers and names of company officials,” the release stated. CCU says the employee checked the information then fulfilled the request.
About 11 days later, the school said it realized a theft of approximately $839,000 when the company, who previously was notified of an invoice being processed, told the university the funds had not arrived.
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After contacting its bank to stop payment, CCU said it launched an investigation through its Department of Public Safety, which enlisted the assistance of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and federal authorities.
More than $564,000 of the funds have been recovered through reversing the transfers, the school said. Efforts to recover funds are ongoing, it said.
“Thanks to quick action and the ‘kill chain’ process initiated by federal authorities, a significant amount of funds are being recovered,” said CCU Department of Public Safety chief David Roper in a news release. The “kill chain” is a tool federal authorities use to freeze funds, following assets bank-to-bank.
After the university brought in external auditors on Dec 20, a second incident of a similar nature was discovered. Fraudsters stole $340,000, and multiple agencies are investigating.
The school says it has made an immediate change in procedures to require an additional reviewer to examine requests for bank account modifications. It’s also initiating additional cybercrime safeguards, it said.
“No state appropriations or tuition funds will be used to cover the net loss to the University,” David A. DeCenzo, president of Coastal Carolina University, said in the release. “We understand the enormous responsibility we have to protect the University and its financial integrity. I am committed to working closely with law enforcement agencies as these crimes are investigated to the fullest degree. We will do everything in our power to resolve this very unfortunate circumstance so that CCU can move forward stronger than ever.”
According to the news release, the investigation is ongoing and no other information is being release.
Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian