BEWARE Phishing, false messages sent from a supposedly known source, is the most frequently reported cybercrime. (Photo by Thapana_Studio/Shutterstock)

Less than a week into the new school year, on Aug. 14, Healdsburg High School students began receiving an email offering them a job—working from home as an executive personal assistant to “various welfare and community services programs” for $300 a week, plus other benefits

“I’m the school HR which this program is to assist all the student and staffs financially within the school,” read the message. More than one student, overlooking the grammatical errors, eagerly followed the link to learn more.

It seemed too good to be true, and it was. When students followed the link, they found a Google form, the same technology that the school itself uses to survey students. But the application included a request for their non-school email address and the name of their bank, which seemed suspicious. Some students reported the message to school authorities, who in turn contacted the police.

“When we discovered it, we immediately let parents know, called the police, of course, and told folks to look out for this email. It’s a scam,” said the school district’s superintendent, Chris Vanden Heuvel.

The district’s IT specialist reviewed the scam, and concluded a teacher’s email had been hacked, which allowed access to student email addresses.

“I don’t know that anyone actually ever had anything stolen, but it was a phishing scam that started with staff and then went to students,” said the superintendent.

Staff and students were advised to change their email passwords and beware of email messages that seemed too good to be true.

While it was reported to law enforcement several days later, on Aug. 17, two other cybercrimes popped up in the police log a couple days after that.

At 9:31am on Saturday, Aug. 19, a woman called the police to say she had sold her entertainment system on Craigslist for $500. She received a check for $2,960, and was advised to mail back the difference in cash, which she did.

After she had mailed the cash, however, she was informed by her bank that the check she received was not good. But she was out $2,260 in cash, and someone somewhere was that much richer.

Later that same day, 6pm, another woman reported that she was contacted via a WhatsApp message that her daughter was stuck in Somalia with a soldier. According to the police report, she “took out two loans to send to the subject, one for $10K and the other for $15K. The RP has also wire transferred more than $50,000 from the subject’s account to other people. The RP has screenshots of the transactions and is genuinely concerned for the subject and his daughter.”   

Police referred the caller to the federal Internet Crime Complaint Center,

“All of these cyber crimes are pretty standard, and there are many other scams that are common,” said Police Chief Matt Jenkins. “I would encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with the common scams so that they are educated and better prepared should they be targeted.”

The FBI has compiled a directory of common scams, which can be found online at

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


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