Email phishing scammers are targeting school PTAs in Wake County in an effort to trick the nonprofit volunteer groups into sending them money.
School PTA treasurers are receiving emails claiming to be from their presidents with urgent requests that checks or wire transfers be sent to third parties, according to Hardin Engelhardt, president of the Wake County PTA Council, which represents PTAs in Wake.
Engelhardt said the emails, which look like they come from the PTA president’s account, may mention the names of the PTA president and treasurer and may reference specific line items from PTA budgets.
“I’m sure that given it’s happening in Georgia and in Wake County, it’s happening elsewhere,” Engelhardt said. “But I was really surprised how widespread it is and how savvy the scammers are.”
Englehardt warned about the scam in an email message sent to PTAs last week. She reminded the PTAs to follow protocols such as submitting proper paperwork for checks, getting two required signatures for checks and checking over the phone if a request seems suspicious.
PTA leaders were referred to an online article from the Georgia PTA warning about phishing scams that have taken place in that state.
Engelhardt said she became aware of the issue when her group’s treasurer questioned an email supposedly from her requesting that money be sent. Engelhardt said she reached out to individual PTAs and discovered that several had also received phishing emails.
None of the PTAs reported sending money to the scammers, according to Engelhardt. But she said one PTA treasurer who didn’t realize it was a scam resigned because she thought she was being asked to do something inappropriate.
Some PTAs operate annual budgets that run into the six figures. The parent-led groups use the money they raise for projects such as helping pay teaching positions, purchasing school supplies and paying for student trips and activities.
“PTAs may be easy targets because so much of our information can be visible on websites,” Engelhardt said.