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Charter Schools Beware

It can be easy to assume that communications from a trusted email address are no worse than having a face-to-face conversation. After all, electronic communication through text and email is ubiquitous today. However, a new scam popping up across the country should give charter schools, and any business for that matter, reason for caution when doing business over email.

The Scam

You hire a contractor to do work at your school. You communicate with the contractor over email throughout the process, and the contractor completes the work to your satisfaction. You get an email from the contractor with instructions on how to pay. You pay the contractor per the instructions. All good right? Not necessarily. 

As it turns out, a scammer hacked the contractor’s email address and sent wiring instructions to a separate account. The scammer is sophisticated and pulls off the heist without the contractor ever knowing that his/her email was ever compromised. And now the contractor comes to you looking to be paid, but you already have—sort of. 

This type of scam is impacting not just charter schools in Colorado but businesses across the nation—sometimes with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake. And unfortunately, the legal analysis with respect to who is responsible for the loss is anything but clear.

So What Then?

First, just being aware that this scam is going on will go a long way in protecting your school. But more importantly, here are a few steps to help protect yourself from a scam like this:

  • Never wire money to anyone unless you have been given specific verbal instructions from the payee. 

  • Don’t assume that just because you recognize an email address that it is trustworthy.

  • Never deviate from the payment instructions on an invoice unless you have been given specific verbal instructions from the payee to do so.

  • If something seems off with an email communication, follow-up with a phone call to clear up any concerns.

As always, if you have any questions or you think you may have been a victim of a scam like this, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would be happy to help!

Bryce Carlson