PTA targeted at Tampa elementary school, hackers use parents’ names in mass emails, FBI investigating

Hillsborough County

TAMPA (WFLA) – Alexandra Ray says she felt sick the first time she saw her name in an email. It appeared as though she was the sender. The message itself was seemingly PTA-related. There was only one problem.

The email wasn’t from her.

For the recipient, however, it looked legit – right down to the last chilling detail. The Tampa mother-of-two was shocked.

She still remembers how her stomach turned when she saw a particular piece of personal information in the sender’s email address.

It was her nickname, “Alli.”

She thought to herself, “Whoever did this knows my nickname. How do they know? How did they do this? And, who was it?”

It is, indeed, a question this Tampa PTA from Ballast Point Elementary School has asked countless times in recent days. Turns out, she’s in good company, joining thousands of other PTA parents all over the country.

Hackers have been hitting hard from coast to coast and all points in between, phishing for funds from PTA parents. It’s happening via email to moms and dads everywhere.

Now, the shady scheme has made its way to Tampa Bay.

“The fact that they’re taking away from our kids is really concerning,” said Alexandra. “I was really bothered by it.”

She added, “it’s a violation because it’s my name.”

The crafty computer crooks spoofs her name in that email, making it look like she sent it, asking parents to purchase gift cards.

Then, came the calls.

People asking the Tampa mom about making the purchase.

“Somebody was using my name to try to tell other people to buy these things, and I feel like they’re dragging my name through the mud.”

Alexandra tells 8 on Your Side these bad guys are bold and super sneaky. They use friendship and familiarity as tools to prey on PTA parents, asking them to purchase gift cards. A scenario that sounds legit since the PTA makes many purchases for kids and their classrooms.

“It’s easy to fall for it because you’re trying to help the kids, do your best for your kids and your school,” Alexandra said.

Alexandra says she wanted to share her story, so other PTA parents will know what lurks in their inbox.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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