School Gets Email Seeking $9M—and Sends It

Phishing scheme fools MacEwan University in Canada
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2018 3:00 PM CDT
Scammers Ask School for $9M—and Get It
The main entrance of MacEwan City Centre Campus in Edmonton, Canada.   (Wikimedia Commons)

How do you get millions from a Canadian university? Just ask, apparently. A fraudster emailed MacEwan University in 2017 seeking roughly $9 million (USD) and the school sent it right off, the Toronto Star reports. To be fair, the Edmonton school was busy constructing a $137 million building featuring dance halls and music studios, so the request from Clark Builders, a company on the project, made sense. Only after sending the money did MacEwan learn that Clark Builders never received it and the email's purported author hadn't worked there in years. The funds really went to a Montreal bank account that previously held under $60. From there, over $1 million of it went to East Asia and back to appear legitimate—an international route that made it harder for the RCMP to trace.

But trace it they did. According to court documents, most of the money returned to Canada as a loan to Vancouver-based Hoi Fu Enterprises Ltd. The loan came from a Chinese company that, via intermediaries, bought Canadian dollars from a supposed Hong Kong company that had received the Montreal money. And presto, Hoi Fu received about $764,000 in loans to help pay a big new mortgage. Luckily, MacEwan recovered over 92% of lost funds, in part by suing Hoi Fu and seizing money from the bank. The school also set up anti-phishing measures to avoid getting fooled again. "We knew we were at fault ... and we accept that," a school rep tells the CBC. No arrests have been reported in the case. (In another story, the so-called "affluenza" mom has been charged with money laundering.)

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