U. of I. Police warn against phone, internet scams

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

Now that tax season is here, scams may pick up – especially scams targeting international students. The University of Illinois Police Department has not received any reports of unusual scam activity recently, and that is a trend that the department would like to see continue.

A common scam involves an unknown caller who claims to be a representative of the U.S. government or IRS. These callers will claim that the person receiving the call owes money to the government or that there is a problem with their visa. They will often claim that they have an arrest warrant, and the matter can only be resolved if the victim makes a payment with gift cards.

These scams exhibit several common red flags:

  • The scammers claim to be a U.S. government official – like an IRS or immigration agent – and falsely claim that the student is in trouble.
  • The scammers demand that the victim visit a local store to purchase hundreds of dollars’ worth of gift cards and transmit the card numbers over the phone.
  • The scammers continue their demands for payment even after the initial payment was made.

 “These scams often have those common threads of demanding payment in the form of gift cards or threats that the victim will be arrested if they hang up the phone or do not comply,” said U. of I. Police Lt. Barb Robbins. “It’s important to remember that no legitimate government agency or business will accept payment in the form of gift cards.”

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.

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.

The University Police Department encourages everyone to call its non-emergency number at 217-333-1216 or email police@illinois.edu 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.