Police warn against phone, internet scams

URBANA, Ill. – U. of I. Police are reminding students and other to be on guard against potential scams at all times.

The University Police Department received at least one report of a student being defrauded of a large amount of money after receiving an online message indicating that he had a computer virus and needed to call a phone number to have it fixed. When he called, the scammer demanded that the student purchase a series of gift cards and read the gift card information over the phone to pay for the fix. The calls continued for several days before the student contacted police.

These types of scams are common – often the caller will falsely claim to be a tax or immigration agent and demand money from the victim. The caller may also threaten the victim with arrest or deportation.

The scammer generally will continue to demand more and more money until the victim cuts off communication.

Although the University Police Department has not received more reports than usual lately, phone and internet scams are an ongoing issue, particularly for international students and scholars who may not be familiar with how U.S. government officials conduct business.

Students should keep these tips in mind when dealing with unknown callers:

  • Maintain a healthy skepticism of callers who claim to be a government official.
  • Government officials – including tax or immigration officials – will never ask you for money over the phone.
  • If you feel unsure about a caller’s identity, you should hang up and call the listed number for that agency to verify the caller’s identity.
  • If you are still unsure, hang up and call police for advice. A legitimate government official will never try to discourage you from taking steps to verify their identity.

The University Police Department encourages everyone to call its non-emergency number at 217-333-1216 if you think you may have been the target of a scam or to ask for guidance if you are not sure.

For more information about phone and internet scams, or to file a complaint, you can also visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.