A Brief Summary of SAT Fraud
While the case surrounding Operation Varsity Blues continues, the fraud committed by celebrities and elites alike hurts good kids the most. Several months ago, Kamilah Campbell, an eighteen-year-old honor roll student at a Florida high school had her SAT scores invalidated. The reason? The SAT company did not believe she could score that high, therefore, they accused her of cheating and made her retake the test three times. Despite public outcry and a legal battle, the SAT company has still not validated her scores.
Months after Kamilah Campbell fought the SAT company, the FBI announced Operation Varsity Blues. If you are not aware of what it is, this investigation exposed celebrities, high-level executives, and other elites who donated money to a man named William Rick Singer. As of March 13, 2019, fifty people have been arrested for having a connection with Operation Varsity Blues. Hopefully, this investigation allows for Campbell to have her SAT scores validated now.
Update Since this post, Felicity Huffman was released on bail for $250,000. Meanwhile, Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossiomo Giannulli were released on bond, too. Unlike Huffman, their bails were 1 million dollars each.
Who Is William Rick Singer and What Is The Key?
For almost a decade, Singer operated a fraudulent charity named Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key. This for-profit college prep business came with high price tags to meet the demands of its clients. During its run, The Key falsified records stating that students were not only star athletes of their schools, but teen prodigies. Along with falsifying records and doctoring pictures, The Key bribed university officials, too.
However, it’s celebrities Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman who are the center of attention in this case. Felicity Huffman, ironically, is famous for playing Lynette Scavo on the ABC show Desperate Housewives. It seems she found out the hard way that real life is not like her show, where characters were also involved in fraudulent activity. On her show, the characters got away with it, but in real life, you can’t run from the FBI. Huffman, in a desperate attempt to get her daughter into college, paid Singer to set up bribes for the SAT and ACT exams.
The Key Customers Spent Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars
Lori Laughlin’s daughter was an upcoming social media star and influencer and “doesn’t really care about school all that much,” as she says in her YouTube video. This might not be the best thing to say if your parents are spending upwards of $500,000 to get you into USC. She continues to say, “I don’t know much school I’m going to be able to attend” but hopes that she can speak with the deans about her work schedule.
Why An Upcoming Social Media Influencer Is The Center of Attention
Since that initial YouTube video, Olivia appeared on YouTuber Zach Sang’s channel on March 8, 2019, three days before her parents would face fraud charges. She tells Sang that it’s really her parents that wanted her to go to college since they did not attend themselves. In addition to posts made on Olivia’s personal Instagram account, a quote she made about her parents in a Zach Sang video also raises red flags. In the video, released days before her mom’s arrest, she says, “I get direct messages from girls all the time saying, I’m applying to college right, what did you do?” She continues to talk about her father, and says, “he was never in college, he faked his entire way through it.
Update The plot thickens as many wondered where Olivia Jade was while her parents were charged. It turns out, she was in the Bahamas on a yacht owned by Rick Caruso, who serves on Board of Trustees at the University of Southern California (USC). Since then, Caruso states that his daughter, Jade, and their friends were on the yacht for spring break. Since the allegations surrounding her mom, Jade lost all of her brand deals with companies like Sephora, Amazon, Smile Direct Club, and more.
Fraud Hurts Everyone
Regardless of the scandal, the bigger issue of how much damage fraud does. In this specific case, students who were actually qualified lost out to those who aren’t. However, students with disabilities will also face greater scrutiny due to The Key abusing the application process.
What Universities Can Do About Fraudulent Students
Universities colluding with a fraudster is an uncommon situation. However, outside of this case, a digital forensic investigation can help identify and verify the background of students, employees and more.
To discuss what universities and other organizations can do to discover fraud, Allan Buxton, Director of Forensics at SecureForensics, says social media will be more beneficial to spot a liar. Regarding Operation Varsity Blues, Buxton states, “In terms of impact, this is going to put the pressure on universities to investigate their applicants more thoroughly. Although some already incorporate social media review, it’s likely that more will.”
Connecting the Dots on Olivia Jade’s Athletic Scholarship
Loughlin’s daughters were accepted to the University of Southern California (USC) under the guise that they were on the USC rowing team. However, if you examine Olivia Jade’s Instagram, she posted photos of herself with alcohol, which is not the norm for someone with an “athletic scholarship.”
Allan holds his stance on how social media can be useful for discovering fraud and fake credentials. He says, “Some of the methods exploited here, like the athletics loopholes, can be called into question with a review of official school participation records, the students’ social media, and possibly even the parents’. For example, if you’re portraying the applicant as a star soccer player or crew athlete, it’s likely that any posts about their prowess, wins, or performances will be commented upon for more than just their junior or senior year”
It’s not only the social media profiles of students that will be scrutinized more. Buxton says, “Similarly, large jumps in SAT/PSAT scores will be subjected to greater scrutiny. It wouldn’t surprise me if universities started proctoring their own exams for applicants who meet a threshold.”
What You Can Do About Fraud
Unfortunately, fraud happens and it affects good people who work hard. It’s even worse when you are the victim. For employee and student verification, and to investigate other cases of fraud, call SecureForensics for a free phone consultation at 1-800-288-1407.