School Is Flooded With Fake Students And Bots, Professor Says

( According to Kim Rich, a professor at Los Angeles Pierce College in Woodland Hills, California, in the wake of the transition from in-person to online classes during the pandemic, California community colleges have been overrun with “fake students” and bots. And this flood of fake students may reveal a scam to commit financial aid fraud.

When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, Rich was assigned the role of “distance education specialist” to help prepare faculty at Pierce College for the transition to online classes. That role gave Rich greater access to student enrollment.

By monitoring student activity and participation, Rich began to notice some anomalies. In her own class, she realized that the work submitted by four of her students was all being completed by an individual who was not enrolled in the class. And as she researched further, Rich discovered that about a third of the students in her class were fake.

From what she could glean, it appeared that students who must maintain a certain course load to receive financial aid were paying someone else to do just enough work to keep them qualified for aid. But that was only one scam Rich thinks she discovered. The other involved the use of “bots.” According to Rich, one person registers as many fake students and bots into the system so they can get access to financial aid.

One big clue that the students were fake was their avatar pictures. Rich did a little searching and discovered that fake students were using images they got off the internet.

The majority of those students she classified as fake had at least one online class in common. Most of them had several classes in common. And every time she started looking into the classes they had in common, she found even more fake students.

So Rich decided to check their student ID numbers. And a lot of the ID numbers for the fake students were all clustered sequentially.

These fake students showed up during summer classes. But Rich discovered they were still around when the fall term began. And, as in the summer, the fall fake students are enrolled in many of the same classes.

Rich then branched out her investigation into other California community colleges and, randomly selecting classes, she found that it is happening elsewhere as well.

Read the entire report on Kim Rich’s investigation HERE.