Internet scammers prey on student victims

Maria Della Bella, a junior electronic media broadcasting major, was looking for a job like most other college students. She thought she got lucky when she received an email from someone named Thomas Hank, who offered her $300 a week for assistant work, but that was before she realized it was a scam.

“I got an email from this guy named Thomas Hank, and he was claiming to own a bunch of law firms and it was a company from Europe and he owned some United States law firms,” Della Bella said.

Hank told Della Bella her job would entail her getting office supplies for his firms from a supplier.

“I thought it was pretty legit, especially because it was from my NKU email,” Della Bella said. “I trusted that my school wouldn’t send me… a scam, and I never give my NKU email out to anybody, ever.”

Things escalated when Della Bella asked Hank for more information about the job. She said that Hank sent her a list of things he needed her to send him, such as her phone number, an email address and street address.

“I sent him that and he asked me when I wanted to start, and I said ‘I don’t want to start yet. I want to get to know your company’ because I was still kind of sketched out about it… he just sent me a check and he said ‘Okay, you can take out $300 for your paycheck and the rest to the supplier and let me know when it’s in your bank account.”

At that point, Della Bella went to the university’s Career Services Department for help. They said they had no idea who this person was.

“That’s when I was like ‘Oh, okay. That’s not good,’” Della Bella said. “After I found out it was a scam, I emailed [Hank] immediately and said ‘Hey, please don’t send me anything. I’m sorry, I want to decline my offer,’ and he emailed me right back and was like ‘Okay, I sent you everything you need.’ So he completely disregarded my decline. I’m just scared that he has my address and my phone number and my email so I don’t really know what he can do.”

Della Bella added that during all this, she started receiving porn-related emails and she eventually had to delete the Yahoo account she had used.

Bill Froude, director of Career Services, said that when his department looked into Thomas Hank they found that he had operated a similar scam at Tennessee Tech under the name Thomas Cook in September.

“Often, these scams repeat themselves,” Froude said. “They’ll just change the name so even though it’s currently Thomas Hank, it could come back in another four or five months and have somebody else’s name but it could be a similar scam.”

Students can determine what job offers are scams by checking for grammar or spelling mistakes, according to Froude. He added that whether the email comes from a legitimate organization or a Gmail account is also a strong indicator that something’s wrong. Students are also welcome to bring the job offers to the Career Services department for help.

Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple suggested that students who fall for scams contact the police rather than the dean of students office since his office can only address issues from inside the university.

“Realistically, for outside groups that are scamming our students, we’re just telling our students… ‘Here’s what we’re aware of. Don’t do anything with it,’ and then we’re turning it over to the police because it’s an outside agency,” Waple said.