The University of Illinois Police Department is here to keep you safe, and it provides a number of different services that can help you while you are on campus. This month, we’re speaking with Executive Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Craig Stone to talk about phone and internet scams and how to avoid them.
Q: How prevalent are phone and internet scams on campus?
Chief Stone: Unfortunately, scams are prevalent everywhere, and our campus is no exception. It is important to be aware of this at all times. Any time you receive a call or an email from someone you do not know, you should be very careful to make sure that person is from a legitimate business or agency. You will want to keep this in mind after you graduate from the university as well, because scammers target everyone, not just college students.
Q: How do I know when I may be the victim of a scam?
Chief Stone: Sometimes it is very easy to tell when a phone call or an email is a scam, and sometimes it is very difficult. Scammers are very good at masking their identities – just because the call or email appears to be coming from a number or an address that you recognize, there is no guarantee that is where it is actually coming from. There are a few common things you can look for. First of all, remember that no legitimate government agency will ask you for money over the phone. If someone calls you demanding that you pay taxes or fines to the government, this will almost always be a scam. Often, a scammer will demand payment in the form of iTunes or Google Play gift cards. Remember that the government and legitimate businesses will never accept payment in the form of gift cards, so if the caller demands this, it is certainly a scam. Often a scammer will threaten you with arrest or other legal consequences if you hang up the phone, but a legitimate caller would not do this.
For more information about how to spot a scam, you can also visit this helpful website from the Department of Homeland Security.
Q: What should I do if I have been contacted by a scammer?
Chief Stone: First of all, if you are ever unsure whether a phone call is a scam, it is OK to hang up and call the listed number for the agency or the business to verify the call. If you cannot verify the caller’s identity or you are still unsure, call the university police department and we can help or offer advice. Secondly, do not give out your personal information like credit cards numbers or your bank account information. If you have already done so, call the police. You should also call police if you have lost money as a result of a scam. If you were contacted by a scammer, but you did not pay them or give them your personal information, you can file a complaint about the call at www.ic3.gov.
Q: What do the police do to prevent these scams?
Chief Stone: Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to stop these scams. Often, the scammers mask their phone numbers and their identities, and they are located overseas in foreign countries where there is very little that the U.S. government can do. So, for these reasons, education is our biggest tool. We do everything we can to tell students about these scams so that they have the information and the tools they need to avoid becoming a victim of a scam.
Q: How can I get more information?
Chief Stone: More information about scams is available online at police.illinois.edu, or on our social media pages like Twitter (@UIPD), Facebook (@uipolice) and Instagram (@uipolice). And don’t hesitate to call our non-emergency number at 217-333-1216 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you ever have questions. We are always happy to speak with you.