Scammers ‘steal’ university website

A fake university created to scam Asian students out of fees found a novel way of making itself look legitimate – it stole another college’s website.

Staff at Reed College were surprised recently to discover that the college had an identical twin – the rather grander-sounding University of Redwood. Its courses, faculty, buildings and history were uncannily similar.

Both institions, it seems, were founded in 1908, but while Reed was named for Oregon pioneers Simeon and Amanda Reed, Redwood was founded by Simeon and Amanda Redwood. Both are, however, apparently “one of the nation’s prominent institutions of the liberal arts and sciences”.

The aim appears to have been to snaffle application fees from prospective students on the far East by impressing them with the university’s fine facilities.

One of the few significant differences between the two sites is that the correspondence address for Redwood belongs to a mail forwarding company.

After collecting a fee, “a shrewd scammer could wait several weeks, then issue a rejection letter, and the student would never know,” Martin Ringle, chief technology officer at Reed told the Wall Street Journal.

And people seem to have fallen for the scam, with Ringle saying he’d found mention of Redwood on several Asian higher education blogs.

While Redwood must surely have been able to build its website in record time, Reed has now been forced to redesign its own just as quickly. It seems just a little unfair.