Over 3,000 fraudulent accounts found posing as FC students for financial aid


Sara Leon, Managing Editor

Fullerton College has uncovered over 3,000 fake applications and registrations in the Spring 2023 semester allegedly being used to gain financial aid from the state.

During the Spring 2023 semester, Fullerton College staff tracked down a total of 3,427 accounts falsely securing seats in classes. California Community Colleges have experienced this problem across the system and are working to remove fraudulent “students” from the current courses this semester.

“Of those 3,427, 408 were identified at the application level and were prevented from entering our registration process,” said Lisa McPheron, Director of Campus Communications at Fullerton College. “The others were identified before classes began. None of these fake registrations received financial aid.”

In 2021, the state of California received over $1.6 billion in COVID-19 relief funds. These funds were for the purpose of aiding low-income students in making sure they received course material, healthcare, food, and housing.

During this time, “bots”, now better know by the term “phantom students”, were created in an attempt to obtain part of the funds by means of committing financial aid fraud.

That same year, Fullerton College put a stop to over $1 million in financial aid funds from being dispersed to approximately 4,130 phantom students. Failure to identify these bots would have meant financial troubles for the college as repayment to the Federal Department of Education would be expected.

Since then, the NOCCCD and Fullerton College have created ways to track down phantom students before they can even apply for an upcoming semester.

“It’s been going on for several years now. So now, we have safeguards that have been built in with our District IT staff and our Admissions and Records staff that run reports to try and identify commonalities such as email addresses that they are using,” said McPheron.

In a letter sent to all Fullerton College faculty, Vice President of Instruction, Jose Ramon Nunez, is asking staff for their support, “to help mitigate instances of fraud and prevent the abuse of fake enrollments.” He warns that the sizable drop in enrollment before the start of the term may be “phantom students.”

In order to make sure all phantom students have been removed from classes, Nunez has also instructed all professors to follow a strict guideline that have been laid out for students to be following.

In these guidelines, students are expected to come to class and keep on top of their work. Non-participation and non-attendance in classes, particularly the first class meeting, will be grounds for your professors to drop you.

With these rules, McPheron says,”our teams in Admissions and Records, Financial Aid, District Information Services and faculty across the college are all helping to ensure real students get the classes they need and the phantom students don’t cash in on financial aid.”