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Scammers have fooled international Chinese students in Washington to hand over nearly $1 million in tuition money.
Yiping Jiang, a student at the University of Washington, moved to the U.S. from Shandong Province in China. He said that while on campus, he met another student who led a registered student organization.
Yiping and nearly 90 other University of Washington students from China are victims of a scheme that resulted in the loss of up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to King5, the scammer was a woman who claimed to also be a Chinese immigrant and the founder of a non-profit organization aimed at helping international students.
The students met the woman on the popular Chinese messaging platform WeChat. She told the other students that she could get them a deal on their tuition. Yiping revealed:
“I trusted her. I was deceived and my money is gone.”
The victims reportedly wrote checks for their summer quarter tuition directly to the woman who said she would use her connections to secure a 5% tuition reimbursement. The reimbursement would be paid back to the students in cash.
A number of the students even handed over their student account usernames and passwords so that she could make the payment for them. Apparently the scammer was well-aware of her victims’ vulnerabilities and knew some of them would be too embarrassed to come forward.
Now nearly a dozen students are demanding justice by hiring Seattle attorney Nelson Lee to recover their tuition money. The University of Washington registrar’s office has since been calling the students regarding their delinquent accounts.
Justin, who chose not to reveal his last name, is another victim of the scam. The 20-year-old mechanical engineering student from Hebei Province said that he was also contacted by the registrar’s office. He stated:
“Initially, I was curious about what was going on. I wasn’t shocked or worried, but when I confirmed with a UW cashier that my tuition really had not been paid I went to the UW Police Department and filed a report.”
Justin revealed that he had written the woman a check for $11,122. He continued:
“I’m extremely angry and feel hurt and betrayed that a Chinese person has done this to me — preying on people who don’t know how the system in the United States works. It’s outrageous. I want the authorities to investigate this case and prosecute (whoever’s responsible) to the fullest extent possible.”
While a number of students have turned to their parents to cover their tuition expenses, others are too ashamed or embarrassed to. Lee, the attorney they hired from Lee & Lee, PS, is representing the students pro bono. According to Lee, an estimated $800,000 to $1 million tuition money was paid to the woman.
Photos credit: Komo News