Students who applied to the University of Redwood had a bit more to be disappointed about than the rejection letter that they all received in the mail. They were also cheated out of their application fees, time and effort, because the university wasn’t simply being highly selective about accepting students—it just didn’t exist.
The Web site featured photos of a beautiful green campus and a list of faculty and staff that were plagiarized from the site for Reed College in Portland,Ore. It also had a mailing address for potential applicants to send their applicants and fees to, based in California. The phony college site for Redwood is still up and running, but Reed College is taking steps to get it shut down to save unsuspecting college hopefuls time and money.
Kevin Myers, Reed College spokesperson, said the school was made aware of the impostor site when a colleague of a Reed faculty member was searching online for the contact information of another faculty member, and stumbled upon Redwood’s site.
“It was clear right away to us that Reed wasn’t the target of the scam, nor were our prospective students,” Myers said. “But it was clear there was a scam going on and we felt obligated to get the site taken down.”
Myers said he alerted the local Torrance, Calif., police department where the school’s mailing address is, as well as Arizona law enforcement, because the site was registered to the owner using GoDaddy.com, based in Arizona. The California address listed on Redwood’s site is for a mail forwarding company, which told Meyers that the client is based in China.
A cease and desist letter was sent to GoDaddy.com, and the Redwood site was removed for 10 days according to Meyers, but then put back up. There is no way for potential applicants to submit money through the site, but they are still able to view the applications and mailing address online.
As of right now, Myers said there is speculation that the site was created by someone living in China, soliciting applicants from overseas.
“Its just speculation but we believe there is someone in China posing as a University of Redwood official doing presentations with the site,” he said. “We suspect they may either say, ‘Mail your application with the fee to us,’ or they may have a person there that says ‘Hand me a check and I will get you in.’”
There is no way to tell how many prospective students applied to the school, or how much money was collected. While Reed’s lawyers continue to try to get the site closed, Myers said what is more important to the school is that the public is made aware of the scam.
“I hope that when people do a Web search of the University of Redwood, these stories come up,” he said. “That is our motivation in trying to get it shut down.”