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Canyon Crest Academy Foundation in Carmel Valley discovers and halts internet misdeeds

The following is a submitted press release from the Canyon Crest Academy Foundation:

The Canyon Crest Academy Foundation discovered an unauthorized website using the CCA Foundation logo on Aug. 26. Using the CCA Foundation’s logo, the website purported to be accepting money on behalf of Canyon Crest Academy by providing a donation portal for accepting contributions via credit card. The website appeared to be taking donations on behalf of about half a dozen local non-profits, including a major university alumni organization.

The CCA Foundation discovered the website while investigating the unauthorized access into its email account by a (now) former board member. The website was not authorized by the school district or the CCA Foundation.

According to CCA Foundation Executive Director Joanne Couvrette, when the website was discovered, she immediately notified CCA Foundation board members and a school district representative. The CCA Foundation consulted with local law enforcement and was advised to both shut down access to its online programs, including email, and to immediately consult an attorney to commence actions to shut down the website. The CCA Foundation reports that the solicitation links for all the non-profits on the deceptive website were shut down upon the receipt of a cease and desist letter.

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The ownership of the site was not a mystery, as it featured a photograph of its founder. The CCA Foundation is not aware of any monies collected on behalf of the other charities involved on the website and confirms that no monies allegedly collected from the website were given to the CCA Foundation.

As advised, the board instructed the webmaster to temporarily restrict access to the CCA Foundation’s email accounts and to conduct a security review of their domain. Following this review, an emergency board meeting was called, which resulted in the removal of a board member.

“I commend the CCA Foundation and the district for doing everything right. First of all, they were just one of several non-profits targeted in this scheme, and by no means the biggest. For them to have discovered this and to have shut it down is a tribute to a dedicated, professional staff and to a smart, effective board, led by President Carolyn Cohen. Their number one duty is to protect donors and they did their investigation, and took decisive action,” commented Jen Fry, CCA’s former Grad Nite chair.

“This is a great opportunity for us to remind the community to be alert on making donations to sites that seem suspicious,” advises Couvrette. “Our website is canyoncrestfoundation.org. When you access our donation page directly from our domain, you can rest assured that you are on our secure CCA Foundation payment portal.”

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The CCA Foundation has also been informed that other suspicious domain names, unrelated to the foundation, have recently been created, and emails have been sent from those accounts.

“Our community is smart and well informed, but anyone can glance quickly at an email and not realize that just one letter has been added, dropped or changed in a web address. This practice, known as phishing, is used to induce the recipient of an email to disclose confidential information, click on a suspicious link or just to create chaos. Either way the intent is malicious.”

Regardless of whether you are an individual, a non-profit organization, a for-profit business or even a media outlet, there are individuals in the world who have ill-intent, and we have to all be vigilant in our due diligence.

“I am so grateful that the CCA Foundation was quick to discover this potential threat and take care of it,” says Fry. “We are lucky to have such a committed staff, dedicated board and savvy school district here in our community.”

The Canyon Crest Academy Foundation reports that revenue raised during the first two months of this fiscal year have been the best July and August on record for the organization. Couvrette thanks the community for its continued support of the CCA Foundation.

“Our mission, to enrich the experience of every student, every day continues despite this attempt by others to do harm. We will use this as a learning experience, for both our organization and our community. We will continue in our efforts to assist CCA in offering a world-class learning environment for our students.”

The Canyon Crest Academy Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization providing fantastic opportunities across academics, athletics, and the arts, and creating an environment where students can thrive. The mission of the foundation is to enrich the experience of every student every day. Your tax-deductible donation to the CCA Foundation is vitally needed to continue our support of these programs.

You can donate online at www.canyoncrestfoundation.org.

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