Phone and internet scams are common no matter where you are. Be aware of how to identify scams and what to do if you encounter one.
In these scams and many others that have occurred over the years, the scammers tend to target international students. Often, there are language or cultural barriers that make international students more susceptible.
Here are the red flags to keep in mind when you receive a call from an unknown person:
- No government official will ever demand money over the phone. If someone claims to be a police officer, immigration official, a tax agent, or any other government representative demanding money, the call is likely a scam.
- Scammers try to intimidate victims with empty threats of arrest or deportation. If a caller threatens to have you arrested if you hang up, the call is likely a scam.
- Often, scammers will demand payment in the form of something other than cash. If a caller directs you to purchase gift cards or transfer payment in the form of virtual currency, the call is likely a scam.
- Sometimes, scammers will direct you to visit a series of banks to withdraw cash. Scammers know that withdrawing large amounts of cash raises red flags for bank employees, so they will direct the victim to visit a number of banks to withdraw smaller amounts.
- Scammers often “spoof” phone numbers of legitimate agencies. Number “spoofing” makes the victim’s caller ID display a legitimate phone number even though the call is originating from somewhere entirely different. If you have doubts about a caller’s identity, you should hang up and call the listed number for that agency to speak to a representative.
If you encounter any of these red flags, hang up immediately and call police. The 24-hour non-emergency number for the University of Illinois Police Department is 217-333-1216, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These scams have been reported to the University of Illinois Police Department. We post them here so you can be better informed about what to watch out for.
- Fake identity theft
A U. of I. student received a call from a person claiming to be a representative of the U.S. Postal Service who said the student’s identity had been stolen. The caller directed the student to purchase $2,000 in gift cards as payment for a new Social Security number. The student purchased the gift cards and transferred the card information to the caller.
- Fake embassy fine
A U. of I. student received a series of calls from people claiming to represent the Chinese Embassy in Chicago who said the student would be arrested if she did not pay a fine. The student provided her passport information and wired $23,000 to the scammer.
- Payment app fraud
A U. of I. student listed a set of vehicle rims for sale on an online marketplace and received a message from a person who claimed to be interested in purchasing them. The student then received a call from someone claiming to be a representative of the online payment application who said that the student had to pay $500 to release the payment from the prospective buyer. The student did so, but did not receive any return payment.
- Fake police
A U. of I. student received a call from a person purporting to be a local police officer who said the student was implicated in illegal activity and needed to pay $950 to avoid being arrested. The student purchased gift cards and transferred the card information to the caller as payment.
- Sexual extortion
A U. of I. student engaged in a video call with a person he believed to be an intimate partner, but later learned that person had lied about their identity. During the video call, the offender had recorded an intimate video of the student without consent and sent it to several of the student’s social media contacts. The offender then demanded $400. The student refused payment and blocked the offender on social media.
- Fake police
A U. of I. student received a text message from a person purporting to be Chinese police who said that the student’s passport was implicated in illegal activity. The scammer told the student she needed to pay the police to avoid prosecution, and the student transferred $315,903 to an unknown account via a mobile banking app.
- Fake tutor
Seeking help for an upcoming exam, the student requested tutoring services through a website. An unknown person responded to her request and asked for personal information, including passwords to her university accounts and remote access to her computer. On the day of the computer-based exam, the scammer took control of the student’s computer and threatened to expose her for cheating if she did not send money. The student reported that she paid $6,189 and asked a friend to send additional money, making the total around $12,000.
- Sexual extortion
A U. of I. student was contacted through social media by an unknown person who requested that the student send intimate photos of himself. When the student did so, the unknown person threatened to distribute the photos unless the student paid $900. The student refused payment, and the photos were sent to several of the student’s social media contacts.
- Seller disappears
A U. of I. student attempted to purchase a gaming console from an online seller advertising the item for sale on social media. The student and the seller agreed on a sale price of $500, and that the student would pay half in advance and half when he received the item. The student transferred $250 via online payment. As of Tuesday, the student had not received the item and the seller has stopped returning his messages.
- Extortion scam
A U. of I. student was contacted through an internet messaging app by an unknown person, to whom he consensually sent images of an intimate nature. The unknown person then threatened to post the images publicly unless the student paid the scammer. The student did not pay.