UNM students charged in an international phishing scheme

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Prosecutors said University of New Mexico students were part of an international rip off scheme. The students are accused of targeting college employees and other students. At least two UNM students are accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars and sending part of the money to other hackers around the world.

US federal prosecutors are throwing the book at several people accused of computer fraud. Of the three people listed in an indictment filed on Monday (Otuokere Sunday, Samantha Almodovar and Ardarari Byas), Almodovar is listed as a UNM student.

The indictment alleges from 2013 to 2014, Almodovar and another unnamed UNM student worked with three other hackers from the US, China and Nigeria and sent phishing emails to employees at least 15 schools, including Duke, American, Georgetown and Case Western Reserve universities, even the University of Arizona.

“Phishing would be very bad news,” said Dr. Lydia Tapia.

Dr. Tapia is a UNM computer science professor. She said phishing, which is when people get a scam email, text or website request asking for their personal information. The link usually looks trustworthy but Dr. Tapia said it can be a trap.

“All they have to do is send you an email that looks very official, and then have you click on a link and there you go, they’ve already gotten some information from you,” said Dr. Tapia.

In this case, at least 50 people fell for the phishing scam and sent the hackers their payroll login information, not knowing the hackers were able to redirect their money and keep it for themselves.

“Do your homework,” said Dr. Tapia. “Don’t just click on links, really do your homework before anybody asks you any information.”

Sunday, Almodovar and Byas are facing a slew of charges, including conspiracy to commit bank, wire and computer fraud, even identity theft. If convicted on just one of the charges like bank fraud, that could land them behind bars for 30 years.

The indictment said the hackers got away with at least $61,000.

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