FBI probing racist emails sent to thousands affiliated with major universities: reports
The FBI is investigating several recent incidents of racist emails being sent to thousands of affiliates of major institutions including Harvard University, Stanford University, and Iowa State University, according to multiple reports.
According to The Ames Tribune, around 4,900 individuals with Iowa State University email accounts were sent messages supposedly from Equity Prime Mortgage offering loans to “whites only” and making racist threats against Black individuals.
The Harvard Crimson reported Monday that “thousands” of Harvard-affiliated individuals received the same email, and The Stanford Daily reported that the emails were sent to 3,600 Standard University-affiliates. Affiliates of the University of Michigan were also targeted.
Harold Reid, a media strategist representing Equity Prime Mortgage, told The Harvard Crimson that the company was working with the FBI to investigate the emails, which were sent following a compromise of Equity Prime Mortgage systems.
Reid told the publication that the company “recently learned that an organization has obtained a list of emails from an outside source that includes students and administrators from higher education institutions to deliver false information on behalf of the company.”
According to Reid, these email addresses were then used by the organization to “fraudulently apply for loan applications on behalf of the individuals impacted.”
The FBI declined to comment on the investigation, telling The Hill it “does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations.”
The Stanford Daily reported that the University IT office was able to block the email, and purged it from inboxes. The Harvard University IT office was also investigating, according to the Crimson, while Iowa State University was able to remove about 70 percent of the emails before they were viewed, according to The Ames Tribune.
“We understand how upsetting this was for those who received the email, especially our Black colleagues and students,” Iowa State University officials wrote in a letter viewed by The Ames Tribune on Monday. “Iowa State University condemns this repugnant hate-filled message and the racism and white supremacy it aimed to spread.”
The emails were sent following the decision of Equity Prime Mortgage last week to fire the stepmother of former white Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe, who was fired himself after shooting and killing Rayshard Brooks, a Black man, in a Wendy’s parking lot.
The company put out a statement last week on Twitter that Melissa Wolfe was let go after she “violated company policy and created an uncomfortable working environment” for other employees.
While the group behind the emails is not yet known, cyber criminals have stepped up malicious email phishing attacks during both the COVID-19 pandemic and recent nationwide protests after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.