Freeport School District employees this week received emails, supposedly from the State Department of Motor Vehicles, telling them they'd received speed camera tickets in front of the village high school and should immediately follow a link to pay an undisclosed fine.
The emails at first glance might have appeared legit, but they were anything but — Nassau hit the brakes on its controversial speed camera program in 2014. In fact, the messages came from the school district's IT department to determine if employees would fall for the con.
It turns out, no employees were taken in by the ruse and some who recognized the scam contacted Freeport police.
In a statement, Freeport School District Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said the effort was part of "the district’s ongoing staff cybersecurity training."
"At no time has the Freeport School District’s employee email database been compromised. For the past several years, district employees have been trained to identify and properly react to phishing emails. Employees receive test emails issued by the district as part of this training."
If an employee had responded to the email, Kuncham said they would have been "immediately notified that this is a test and directed to review the cybersecurity training protocols provided by the district."
The emails informed the recipient they'd been cited with a traffic violation for driving 15 to 20 miles over the speed limit and to pay the fine within 72 hours, adding that there were "payment plans available if necessary." The purported citations occurred at 50 South Brookside Avenue — Freeport High School — and recipients were urged to pay the fine through an "EasyPay" link in the email.
There are no speed cameras in the Village of Freeport or anywhere else in Nassau County.
Freeport Police Chief Michael Smith said between five and 10 concerned school district employees alerted his department to the scam, including some who visited police headquarters, but that none clicked on the email link.
The department, which was not informed in advance about the district's test, posted a message on its social media pages alerting the public to the scam.
"If you receive these messages please do not reply or click on anything in the email," the post said.
Freeport residents, Smith said, have faced a barrage of online scams in recent years, including those involving the lottery, electric bills or seeking bail money for relatives.
Smith said he was informed about the test by Kuncham on Wednesday afternoon. The chief said he wasn't upset that the district had failed to inform him about the training exercise earlier, conceding that the information could have made its way back to district employees.
And while the department wasted time investigating the emails and informing the public about the "scam," Smith said that ultimately no harm was done.
"You could look it as a waste of our resources, but I'll try and bring the positive aspect that … we did make the public aware of additional scams," he said. "And hopefully they're always mindful."