While the pandemic has introduced various massive scams, a new kind of emerging fraud is plaguing California's community colleges. A staggering 20% of applications to these institutions are "ghost students," scammers using someone else's name to pocket financial aid without attending a single class. This scheme focuses primarily on community colleges as they are required to accept any student's name with a high school diploma, regardless of a social security number. This growing issue is taxing underfunded community colleges, who have to expend additional labor to weed out fraudulent applications.
Additionally, "ghost students" are causing real students to miss out on classes due to inflated capacity numbers. Fraudsters are targeting Pell grants, which have become more attractive since the federal government stopped verifying family income during the pandemic. Organized crime rings are often behind these scams, with the Department of Education conducting 48 active investigations into student loan fraud rings in California alone.
These fraudulent acts are impacting both the education system and genuine students, creating barriers to access and loss of funding. Continue reading on SFist →
Image: College of San Mateo via Facebook