UIPD reminds about scams heading into new semester

URBANA, Ill. – In advance of the new semester, the University of Illinois Police Department is reminding students to be mindful that scammers may try to fool them by phone or online.

Scams continue to be prevalent on college campuses everywhere, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is no exception. A number of recent scams involve telephone callers in which the caller claims to be a police officer or other government representative, and the victim may even be threatened with arrest.

The reminder comes soon after a U. of I. employee was scammed out of about $69,000 after a caller purporting to be a representative of the Social Security Administration claimed that the victim’s Social Security number had been compromised. The caller also claimed that the victim had an outstanding arrest warrant in Texas, and that the warrant could be quashed if the victim transferred money via bitcoin. Ultimately, the caller directed the victim to visit a number of area banks to withdraw cash, and then visit a series of bitcoin ATMs in central Illinois to transfer that money as virtual currency to unknown accounts.

During the call, the victim believed that he was speaking with a Social Security representative, and then a police officer. None of the callers were who they purported to be. The scammers even made it appear that the victim was receiving a call from a bona fide phone number even though the call originated from somewhere entirely different than what was listed on the victim’s caller ID.

Previous scams have involved callers who pretend to be from the Internal Revenue Service or immigration officials. Often these callers demand payment in the form of something other than cash – like gift cards or virtual currency.

If you ever receive a call from an unknown source, these are the red flags that should make you highly suspicious:

  • 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.
  • Never give out bank account information, credit card numbers, or your Social Security number to someone who you do not know. Scammers may trick you into giving them this information unwillingly. Always verify someone’s identity and that they are from a legitimate organization before you give them personal information.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.