B2B Payments

Higher Learning, Hit By Payments Fraud


Is higher education a conduit to workers skimming from their institutions of learning?

In a few incidents seen earlier this month, it seems like skimming takes its place with reading, writing and arithmetic.

In one bit of news from Madison.com, a former University of Wisconsin-Madison employee stole as much as $113,000 through fake companies and fraudulent checks, using those methods as means to make personal transactions over more than two years. Under the terms of the compliant, the charges range from theft to forgery to identity theft. The defendant, Kevin O’Donnell, faces 12 charges in total, stemming from his time as purchasing manager for the university’s housing division — operating apartment buildings, dining halls and residence halls on campus. His time in that role ended in March of last year after the thefts came to light.

In one example of fraud, crossing 74 checks totaling more than $38,000, O’Donnell forged payments made to resemble “housing refunds” for students that were made out to “pay to the order of Kevin O’Donnell” and cashed. In other instances, he used two credit cards tied to the university to send cash to himself via PayPal and Square. A number of those transactions, said the aforementioned website, were described as being part of “risk assessment of facilities.”

Writ a bit smaller, a Vassar college worker has been accused of loading up $6,000 in purchases using a credit card from the college. The employee, Merlisha A. Celestin, allegedly used a Vassar College credit card for the unauthorized transactions, not further detailed by the publication.

Separately, West Virginia News reported that an ex-state Division of Highways worker has been sentenced to probation spanning three years after filing fake expense reports. The former worker, Steven Hull, has been ordered to pay $52,000 in restitution and has been fined $5,000. Hull admitted he had charged expenses that had not been incurred. In one example, Hull filed an expense report that stated he had stayed in a motel for four nights, to the tune of $345, but, in fact, only stayed for a single night, for roughly $87.

In news reported by nbcphiladelphia.com, an Upper Darby employee, Jessica McCusker, working at the township’s tax office for 15 years, has been charged with bilking taxpayers of more than $216,000 in order to buy drugs, pay off credit cards and pay rent. Under the scheme in place, McCusker took cash for tax payments, wrote receipts for those payments and then did not post those payments to the proper account. The charges range from theft by unlawful taking to receiving stolen property to theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received, the site reported.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.