Zags Help Zags

A hacker used GU senior Kate West's, pictured above, Snapchat to raise $300 toward a fake fundraiser. 

Zags are known for being a caring community of students and faculty. On campus, it’s thought to be a strange occurrence if someone didn’t hold open the door for anyone behind them. Zags Help Zags is the term coined by the Office of Health Promotion to put a name to this sense of community that can be found on Gonzaga’s campus. 

The Office of Health Promotion defines the term Zags Help Zags as the program to encourage students, faculty and staff to be active bystanders to make a positive difference in the community, according to their page on GU’s website.

They outline a set of instructions under the name CARE for Zags to follow in a time of need. Those include: 

  • Create a distraction.
  • Ask directly.   
  • Refer to an expert.
  • Enlist others to help.

While the Zags Help Zags culture is one of the major reasons GU has such a communal feeling, there are instances in which this quick-to-help nature can be harmful, most recently over the case of a hacked account. 

Kate West, a senior at GU, was found at this crossroads a few weeks ago, when her Snapchat account was hacked and the hacker reached out to her followers on her profile asking for money.

The messages sent to West’s friend list were a plea for money in order to pay for a dog’s surgery after being hit by a car. While there is no word on whether the person who hacked the account was actually looking for money for the dog’s surgery, it was not West who had been asking for money. 

“I woke up from a nap to like 20 texts saying my Snapchat had been hacked,” West said. “Someone made a Venmo and they hacked my Snapchat and asked people to Venmo saying that I had seen a dog get hit and the dog needed surgery.”

The hacker also created a fake Venmo account for West’s friends to send money to, posing as her. The profile picture featured a photo of West that had not been shared on any of her social media pages before.

The hacker raised over $300 on the account before West caught wind of the situation. 

“I think the total end of it came out to around $300 that got Venmoed to me or the fake account,” West said. “To the people who Venmoed my real account I was able to send the money back.”

Since West didn’t have access to the fake Venmo account, she reached out to the creator through the app and threatened legal action if they didn’t send the money back. The hacker sent West back $85, which she then sent back to those who had Venmoed that account.

After the hacking instance, West reached out to one of her friends who is majoring in computer science to see if she could help her find who hacked her accounts, but she wasn’t able to. The hacker put a two factor identification code on West’s Snapchat, blocking West from being able to change the password on her account. 

This instance is a situation where the term Zags Help Zags may not have been as helpful as originally intended, but West knows that the GU community is there, ready to help her if she needs help with anything.

The average “donation” size made to West was around $20, which West acknowledged can be a lot of money for a college student to donate. 

Ask a Zag and they will recall numerous different occasions they have felt the presence of community on campus. 

“When I came to GU I noticed that everyone held the door open and the sense of community was super strong,” said Braden Williams, a 2020 graduate who is now attending GU’s MBA program, in an email. “People are super courteous of everyone else on campus.” 

The term Zags Help Zags couldn’t be more apparent for many members of the GU community than during the times of COVID-19. Laurel Hermann, a senior human physiology major, ran into trouble when working on her senior research project and Zags came to her side to help.

“My most recent experience would be trying to navigate new COVID-19 restrictions for my senior research project my partners and I have been planning for the last year, which made funding a nightmare,” Hermann said. “My research partners and I  ended up needing to reach out on social media for some equipment loaning from our fellow Zags. We got multiple responses from random connections we had made over the years allowing us to gather the equipment we needed quickly to continue our research.” 

Zags Help Zags is certainly something that GU students live by in different situations. 

“I think it’s really accurate and encompassing of the type of people that do choose to come to GU,” West said. “Most of the people who Venmoed me I haven’t talked to in probably six to seven months.”

Lindsey Wilson is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @lindseyrwilson1.

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