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Vietnamese students scammed by score-tampering offer via hacked university email

Thursday, November 24, 2016, 15:16 GMT+7

A hacker who gained control of a Ho Chi Minh City university employee’s email account sent fake messages, claiming he could tamper with scores in exchange for cash.

The scam was reported at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology and Education (UTE), whose rector Assoc. Prof. Dr. Do Van Dung said many of his undergraduate students were targeted by the scammer.

According to the rector, the scam primarily targeted students whose TOEIC scores on an exam held in early November failed to meet graduation requirements.

The students received an email titled ‘English for graduation assistance’ from an authentic university address belonging to a university employee in charge of education inspection.

“According to your performance in the recent TOEIC test, you are not qualified for graduation,” the email reads. “I will be retiring next year, so I want to do something to help you.”

The email goes on to ask those wishing to change their score to transfer VND500,000 (US$22) to "Professor Tien’s account by November 10, 2016," explaining that the professor in question is on vacation abroad.

Recipients of the email were also reminded to reply to the email for confirmation once they complete the transaction.

“Your scores will be changed within five working weeks,” the email promises. “Since it’s a sensitive matter, I can only communicate with you via email.”

‘Cunning hacker’

According to Dung, a similar email scam last year was probably the work of the same hacker.

Dung said last year’s hacker gained control of an email account belonging to Nga, an employee at the university’s education inspectorate, and sent out fake emails to graduating students, over 20 of whom fell for the scam.

The hacker opened a bank account using a stolen national ID from a mentally ill woman in Bac Lieu Province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region, Dung said, citing police investigations.

In a letter sent out to his employees in the aftermath of the recent scam, Dung said he learned about the con but decided to remain silent in order to try to trace the hacker.

“[The university] is working with police officers to trap the cunning hacker behind all this,” Dung explained.

The hacker had been withdrawing the scammed money from ATMs located in different provinces and cities to avoid drawing attention, Dung said, adding that police locked the culprit’s ATM card hoping to lure him into a bank to withdraw the scammed money.

According to Dung, two students had already transferred money to the hacker following the 'English for graduation assistance' scam.

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