The California Community Colleges (CCC) system is investigating several fraudulent incidents involving “bot students” enrolled to receive COVID-19 relief grants.
The system, which operates more than 100 campuses, has found that 20 percent of online enrollment traffic on its main portal was “malicious and bot-related.” About 15 percent of that traffic was detected by new software called Imperva Advanced Bot Detection.
According to CCC Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, at least six campuses have reported a surge in enrolment attempts supposedly involving fake students. However, the system has yet to determine where the attempts came from and how many colleges were affected.
“I’m certainly alarmed. There’s lots of unscrupulous players right now trying to access and exploit benefits,” Oakley told the Los Angeles Times.
Despite the attempted fraud, Oakley believes that colleges detected the activity immediately and are now working hard to prevent any risk that it may bring to campuses.
‘A Sophisticated Endeavor’
Several faculty members at San Joaquin Delta College (SJDC) in Stockton have also revealed that they noticed an unusual spike in enrolment for online classes during the first week of the fall semester.
According to the director of marketing, communications, and outreach at SJDC, Alex Breitler, the college detected many “pseudo-students” who had signed up for various courses.
“It looks like a person or group of some kind created pseudo-students and enrolled them into classes, presumably with the end goal of securing financial aid,” he told the newspaper, adding that the school is now trying to figure out the extent of the “sophisticated endeavor.”
Breitler said the institution would drop all pseudo-students as soon as possible, and it will ensure that they are all blocked from receiving any financial aid.
The incident has reached the US Department of Education. The department said it is already conducting a separate investigation of the issue.