The race for political office can get heated quickly – especially when it becomes clear that a candidate has used unethical methods to win.  While we would like to believe the human race proceeds morally and ethically with all things, the reality is some people cheat, lie and defraud to get what they want.  According to a U-T San Diego article, one college’s student election turned out to be more like a tutorial on Fraud 101 than a laboratory of democracy.

The California college at the center of today’s Fraud of the Day has hosted campus student council elections for 24 years.  What was meant to be an empowering experience for the college population, turned into a lesson about the consequences of committing fraud. (Oh, the things you’ll learn in college.)One of the two candidates pleaded guilty to wire fraud, access device fraud and unauthorized use of a computer after an investigation determined that a student had stolen the identities and passwords of students to rig the election.  But, what would lead a young student to take drastic measures like fraud?  It is speculated that motivation spiked from the salary of the student body president – a whopping $8,000. (To a college student, that may be a lot. But if he’s looking for real money, he should try tax refund fraud.)

So, how did he do it?   He used a keylogger – a program that secretly records keystrokes on a computer. Keylogger software is loaded on a memory stick and inserted into a computer.  All of the keystrokes are recorded and transmitted to the party that installed the application.  Using this keylogger, he was able to track the keystrokes of students’ passwords, where he admitted to casting nearly 480 votes from himself in the place of others.  Sentencing is set for June 2013, when the student faces up to 27 to 33 months in prison.  School officials commented that this was the largest case of identity theft in the school’s history.

While this young man may have had the smarts to attend this college, he didn’t use them in a way that was beneficial to his future.  He also wasn’t smart enough to use his “talent” for defrauding others to make the big bucks.  You would think as college student he would have the attitude, “Go big, or go home.” Or, in his case, “Go fraud, go to jail.”

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, “Ex-Student Admits Guilt in ID Theft Case,” written by Teri Figueroa and published by the U-T San Diego onMarch 21, 2013.

SAN DIEGO — A former Cal State San Marcos student accused of stealing the identities and passwords of 745 students to rig campus elections pleaded guilty Thursday to three federal charges.

Matthew Weaver, 22, of Huntington Beach admitted to wire fraud, access device fraud and unauthorized use of a computer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He made his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Gallo in San Diego federal court.

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