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Schools And Tech Companies Sue On Behalf Of International Students : NPR


Pedestrians in Harvard Yard in 2019. Schools and businesses have gone to court to stop the Trump administration from barring online-only international students from entering or staying in the U.S.

Charles Krupa/AP


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Charles Krupa/AP

Pedestrians in Harvard Yard in 2019. Schools and businesses have gone to court to stop the Trump administration from barring online-only international students from entering or staying in the U.S.

Charles Krupa/AP

One week ago, the Trump administration announced it would ban international students from attending U.S. colleges in the fall if they only take online classes. Now, hundreds of colleges and universities, dozens of cities, and some of the country’s biggest tech companies are pushing back.

In several court filings Friday and Monday, the groups stand with the international students. They argue providing remote education is crucial given how contagious COVID-19 is — and they say crafted policies for the fall by depending on earlier assurances from the federal government that international students would be able to attend class remotely “for the duration of the emergency,” while still retaining their F-1 or M-1 visa status.

They’re supporting an initial legal challenge by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first to sue the administration over its new policy. Existing law had prohibited international students from taking all their courses online, but the administration temporarily lifted that rule in March.

In a response Monday, the government said that just because it offered leniency in March, it doesn’t have to extend that policy through the fall. The request to do so “subverts the deference afforded administrative agencies in complex and interrelated fields like immigration enforcement,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wrote.

According to the Institute of International Education, more than 1 million international students take courses in the U.S. — about 5% of the total student body.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “blindsided the whole of higher education,” more than 180 colleges and universities wrote in their amicus brief filed with the federal district court in Massachusetts, where Harvard’s challenge is being heard. The schools range from small private colleges to large public universities, spread across the nation. “Though diverse in faith, academic mission, geography, and size, these institutions are deeply concerned with and impacted by ICE’s July 6 directive,” they wrote.

“ICE’s abrupt policy change guts the enormous reliance interests of higher education institutions and their students—all of whom planned for the fall 2020 semester based on ICE’s earlier confirmation that its March 2020 position would remain so long as the ’emergency’ continued,” the schools wrote.

They’re arguing that, legally, ICE can’t just change its mind after so many schools spent months crafting policies based on the government’s guidance. To change course so completely without adequate justification is “arbitrary and capricious,” the schools wrote, citing the legal standard used by courts.

They are asking the federal court to put a hold on the government’s proposal until the courts can rule on its legality.

When the coronavirus began to spread, schools across the country moved their coursework online. And they immediately had to make hard decisions about the fall term. The California State University system — one of the largest higher education systems in the country, with 480,000 students — felt it would be “irresponsible” to postpone a decision on in-person classes until the summer. “Because of its size, the CSU system had to sacrifice flexibility for certainty,” the filing says. So CSU decided in the spring that its 23 campuses would mostly offer classes remotely for the fall term.

The administration’s plan could be catastrophic to some schools. At the Stevens Institute of Technology — a private research university in Hoboken, N.J. — international students make up one-third of its overall student body, and 61% of graduate students. “With such a large volume of international students, inability to continue educating these students would be devastating,” the schools wrote.

And international students make “immense contributions” to campuses nationwide, they said, fostering diversity and enhancing schools’ intellectual and athletic competitiveness. Blocking these students from attending American schools would only send them elsewhere, giving an advantage to foreign nations, the schools said.

An amicus brief filed by America’s top technology companies makes a similar point. International students are both customers and future employees of these companies, wrote Google, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, Adobe and others in a filing Monday. If international students lose their visas and are forced to return home, American businesses and the economy at large will suffer, they said.

In addition to the tens of billions of dollars that international students contribute directly to the U.S. economy each year, they also help ensure that American companies “continue leading the world in innovation,” they wrote.

And without international students, American schools will suffer, they said: “The loss of international students as a result of the July 6 Directive threatens the very existence of educational programs — for both American and international students — that are critical to training the employees U.S. businesses need and supporting the research that enables America to lead the world in innovation.”

If international students are barred from studying in the U.S. until the coronavirus pandemic is over, the companies said, many will simply never return. Companies in turn won’t be able to recruit those students. And the entire economy will suffer.

Dozens of municipalities filed their own brief in support of Harvard and MIT’s challenge. International students “make significant economic contributions” to their communities, wrote the municipalities, which include Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, New York and about two dozen other cities large and small.

“In New York City, international students contribute more than $3 billion in economic value annually,” they wrote. “In Pittsburgh, one job is created for every two international students enrolled in the city’s colleges and universities. And in Iowa City, the 2,500 resident international students at the University of Iowa contribute millions of dollars to the city’s economy annually.”

The federal government’s “rash” decision could also have health consequences, they wrote: It’s “likely to send students threatened with removal into the shadows, where public health efforts will not reach them, in the midst of a pandemic.”

The Massachusetts court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Tuesday.

Several other organizations have filed their own lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s new policy. Massachusetts filed a federal suit joined by attorneys general in 16 states and the District of Columbia; Johns Hopkins University filed suit Friday; and the University of California system has pledged its own lawsuit.



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Imposter scams employ new tech and techniques to steal retirees’ life savings


The telephone rang just past three o’clock on an April morning, piercing the silence of the darkened Long Island home where James McGlone and his wife slept. When he picked up the phone, McGlone was drowsy and disoriented, but the voice on the line made his stomach drop, jolting him awake.

The late-night caller said McGlone’s nephew was in legal trouble and needed immediate financial assistance. He’d been in a car accident that had caused the other driver — a pregnant woman — to lose her baby. Thinking his nephew’s future was on the line, McGlone didn’t hesitate to send the cash requested.

“If he was in trouble, we were going to try to do what we can,” McGlone said. “And it’s a weakness. I guess we just weren’t thinking clearly.”Across the nation, crimes of fraud targeting senior citizens are on the rise, and many of the attempts have become more advanced through the use of new technologies. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission reported that imposter scams, which involve impersonating a person or an entity, were the most common type of fraud in the United States. Reports have almost doubled since 2016, according to the FTC, reaching a new high this year of more than 512,000.

Older citizens and retirees are particularly at risk — they’re often explicitly targeted and tend to be swindled out of much higher amounts than other age groups. Almost $149 million was reported in imposter scam losses by those over the age of 60 this year, FTC data shows. With little or no way to work to earn back their money, victims are often left with few options after being conned out of their life savings.

This is exactly what happened to McGlone. After reaching out to his nephew directly, he soon learned there had been no accident, no victim, no danger at all. Instead, he had sent $22,000 — nearly all of his life savings — to someone running what’s known as a grandpa or grandma scam.

Audience members at a Senior Scam Presentation put on by Legislator Arnie Drucker and the Nassau County Police Department in New York.Caroline Skinner / for NBC News

Though he filed a police report that week, they have yet to catch the culprit or recover any of his money.

“They’re retired, you know, they lost everything,” said Sharon McGlone, McGlone’s daughter, who set up a GoFundMe page for her parents after the scam. “And so they’re still struggling with paying the bills and everything.”

A global problem

In June, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the creation of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, tasked with “investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors.” The team is a coordinated effort of the FBI, Department of Justice, Secret Service and numerous other organizations.

But finding these offenders is no easy task. They operate in organized groups and have developed sophisticated methods to avoid being caught.

“Historically, this type of crime was sort of small groups operating and using the limited skill sets that they have,” Matt O’Neill, a Secret Service agent who manages the Global Investigative Operations Center, said. “Those days are over because cybercrime is a service now.”

In the past few years, fraudsters have started to use “money mules,” people used to trafficking money overseas, according to the Department of Justice.

Money mules can be broken down into several categories. Most often, they are either knowing co-conspirators who have been recruited to collect and send money, or they are unwitting victims who have been tricked into moving money under false pretenses, according to the Secret Service. Unwitting mules can fall prey to con artists posing as businesses hiring people to work from home or they’re told they’ve won the lottery and just need to send the fees to receive their winnings.

In early December, the Department of Justice and Europol announced a “landmark” international effort that halted a major network of fraudsters. Six-hundred money mules were stopped during the September to November operation, compared to 400 in a similar effort last year. Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved, including members of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force that was formed in June.

“There were law enforcement authorities in 31 countries that stepped up to crack down on money mule schemes, which is pretty significant,” O’Neill said. “You don’t see that all that often, which goes to the heart of the problem: that it is a worldwide problem.”

Older victims, newer tech

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In America, older citizens are hit particularly hard. In family or friend imposter scams targeting seniors over 80, as was the case with McGlone, the median amount lost so far this year has been $6,500.

Associate Deputy Attorney General Antoinette T. Bacon said one reason older citizens are targeted is, “that’s where the money is.”

Retirees like McGlone tend to have much more put away than younger people, Bacon said.

“I think a second is they’re not as technologically savvy as millennials or generations who grew up with computers,” Bacon said, citing social isolation and loneliness as reasons seniors are more susceptible to engaging with scammers.

Such criminals are constantly evolving their tactics.

“We have to almost keep ahead of the curve on these technologies and these approaches that they’re using so that we can educate the public on them,” the commissioner of New York City’s Department for the Aging, Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, said.

Cash scams, like what McGlone experienced, have been replaced with less traceable forms of extortion. In recent months, gift cards have taken over as a popular form of payment, according to the New York State Attorney General’s office. They request the serial numbers on the back to be sent to them, allowing for the money to be transferred without a trace.

Fraudsters are also using increasingly sophisticated technology. Robocalls have exploded because they require less time, effort and money, according to Lois Greisman, associate director of the FTC’s division of marketing practices. Spoofing technology has rendered caller ID untrustworthy, while malware opens a slew of options to criminals.

Dangers in popups and webcams

Merri Berg, 70, is a retiree living in Federal Way, Washington, and was the target of one of these tech support scams. While playing an online game, a screen popped up telling her to call Apple immediately or risk being blocked.

“I get the number and I get an agent who sounds like an Apple agent,” Berg said. “I mean he’s asking me all the right questions.”

Posing as a customer service agent, he instructed her to drive to a store and buy an Apple gift card.

“I went down there and I ended up taking a picture of the back of that card, which has the number on it for $200 and sending it to him,” Berg said. When the scammer called back and asked for $500 more to fix a new problem, she realized that it had all been a trick.

But such grifters can use malware for much more than faking pop-up windows.

“Being able to remotely and maliciously access webcams is part of the toolkit of hackers who are looking to scam people,” Sandy Silverberg, president of the technology consulting firm TEConsult, said. According to Silverberg, hackers do this using software called a Remote Access Trojan, which can be accidentally installed through infected email links and internet downloads. Once in, these programs can also be used to remotely access and control your computer.

Silverberg was a consultant to FirstLight, a home care company in New York, when one of the company’s clients was spied on through her webcam. The scammer had tried to use details about the interior of the client’s home to convince her that he was her nephew. FirstLight owner David Martin knew his client didn’t have a nephew and reached out to Silverberg.

Silverberg told Martin that his client was likely being spied on through her laptop camera.

“He actually told me now that they’re spying on her and this is very common with the elderly,” Martin said. “It’s growing.”

Martin’s solution to prevent any of his clients from falling victim to such a con was low-tech: He made it a policy to give them all webcam covers.

David Martin, owner of FirstLight Home Care, demonstrates the camera covers he got for all of his clients following a webcam spying incident.Caroline Skinner

According to the FBI, fraudsters can use malware to gain full access to computers, including webcams.

Scammers will then extort victims, saying, “I collected all your private data and I recorded you pleasuring yourself, or doing something terrible, or whatever it is through your webcam,” FBI special agent Mike Braconi said. “And you pay the X amount of Bitcoin.”

Catching the con

For the authorities, it’s like whack-a-mole, trying to catch the criminals swindling billions from the nation’s elderly.

“We’re making a concerted effort to go after the networks to try to take down the networks, and not in a piecemeal approach,” O’Neill said about the tactics that the Secret Service is currently employing. “Because what we’ve found is, if we just take one individual out, somebody else will fill in that role. We have seen a change in the bad actor operations knowing how we are targeting them, which is good because it continues to make them uncomfortable.”

According to Bacon, sometimes the only hope of financial recourse lies in the fraudster being caught and charged by authorities. But even when they are, in many cases, “the money is long gone,” Bacon said.

Timely reporting is the crucial first step in that process. Unfortunately, only one in 44 victims even files a report, according to the New York State Attorney General’s office.

“Law enforcement is definitely still losing the fight because the problem is the speed in which it needs to be brought to the attention of law enforcement has to be no later than 72 hours,” O’Neill said. “But typically to have any success, it’s within the first 24 hours.”

Unfortunately, shame frequently stops victims from reporting at all.

For McGlone, the ordeal resulted in serious financial loss and it also damaged the faith he had in himself.

“I’m embarrassed to talk about it,” J.M said. “I’m sure it upsets my family, as well.”

Bacon said that one of the major challenges her agency faces is that older victims are reluctant to report the crimes out of fear of losing their autonomy.

“They are afraid that their children are going to take away the car keys, take away the checkbook, move them in,” Bacon said. “They’re also concerned because they’re a proud generation and don’t want to be a burden to their family.”



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‘We are hiring big time’: Calgary tech companies join forces to attract job seekers – Calgary


A Calgary-based group of tech companies held a hiring fair downtown on Saturday to help get the word out that the technology sector needs skilled workers.

Jason Moore was working as a geologist in Calgary for the past eight years until September when he was laid off.

“I left on good terms. They treated me very fairly but it was more just a side effect of what all of Alberta is going through at this time,” Moore said.


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Moore is one of the hundreds of people who attended the first Tech West Collective hiring expo on Saturday. He now considers himself lucky. Moore is learning the world of coding and discovering a passion he never knew he had.

“I think one of the great things about coding is you get to build stuff, and you get to see if it works right away. It’s like the mouse pushing the button and you get the pellet,” Moore said with a laugh.

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The Tech West Collective is a group of Calgary tech companies that have teamed up to help fill vacant positions.

“We are feeling a talent gap. Now we want to build up the talent pool,” said Tech West Collective organizer Kat Lesperance.

Lesperance works at Showpass, a Calgary-based tech company that provides ticketing solutions for event organizers. Showpass and Avanti Software are two of the seven members of the collective.

“We are hiring big time,” said David Owen Cord, Avanti Software co-CEO.

He said the company is looking for people of all backgrounds — not just tech-related positions.

“It’s been interesting because of the negative headlines here in Calgary and the layoffs that are going on but we are having a very different reality in the business we live in every day. One of our biggest challenges is actually filling the open spots that we are trying to hire for,” Owen Cord said.

Part of the problem is a lack of people with tech skills.

EvolveU is a non-profit educational institution that is helping job hunters transform their careers to adapt to the rapidly changing digital economy.

“There’s so much opportunity right now that people don’t even know about. That’s exciting for me and it’s exciting to watch the students go through the transformation,” said Jen Morrison, program manager with EvolveU, at the job fair on Saturday.

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Calgary working to attract tech talent

Members of the Tech West Collective said it’s time for tech companies to stop poaching talent from each other and get the word out that Calgary’s economy goes beyond oil and gas. Those transitioning from the energy industry said the job hunt in the tech world is more encouraging.

“There [are] more jobs than would be for my old profession. It’s not that they’re handing them out, but there definitely does seem to be more excitement and more opportunity and a desire for more people to enter this industry,” Moore said, adding that he’s taking courses at EvolveU.

According to Calgary Economic Development, the city has over 2,000 open tech jobs.




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