On Friday, the USC Department of Public Safety alerted students to a scam that occurred repeatedly near campus.
The suspect allegedly poses as a man who has financial problems and “sells” Italian suits out of a late model silver Lincoln SUV with the license plate 7DVB186. DPS suspects other rental vehicles might have also been used.
In a statement released to the Office of International Services that will go out to international students on Tuesday, DPS Deputy Chief David Carlisle said that in one incident a student became suspicious and reported the scam to DPS, while another student did not purchase any suits but gave the suspect a large amount of cash.
“The Department of Public Safety urges students to be cautious when dealing with strangers,” Carlisle said in the statement. “Scams are not uncommon around college campuses.”
According to the DPS incident alert, one of the suspects is an approximately 40-year-old dark-haired male, possibly faking an Italian accent. The suspect was seen wearing a white, long-sleeved shirt. A student who reported the incident said there was a second suspect, a Hispanic female in her 20s wearing a white tank top and seated in the passenger’s seat.
Carlisle said the suspects appear to be targeting international students.
“International students are especially vulnerable to scams as they must juggle starting college with becoming familiar with a new country and culture,” he said in the statement.
Sneha Chug, a freshman majoring in business administration, however, stressed that international students are equally as susceptible to scams as domestic students.
“I feel like we pool our students separately as international students and American students, but I actually don’t think there’s a difference based on where you’re from,” Chug said. “I just think it’s how you’ve grown up, what you’ve been surrounded by and if you’ve been aware of things like this going on.”
Chug, who is an international student from India, said she has somewhat of an advantage over other international students because she learned English shortly after learning the language of Gujarati.
“I think it definitely makes me less susceptible because the suspect is likely speaking in English and trying to convey that [he has] suits,” she said. “But even for students that have English as a second language, it’s not like all of them would have believed it and I also don’t believe that all students who have English as a first language would have just disregarded the scam.”
Peter Nordahl-Hansen, a senior from Norway majoring in critical studies, said that some international students are simply looking to meet new people and thus might be talkative.
“As an international student, when you are first coming here, you are trying to be more aware, you are more likely to maybe stop and talk to people because you’re not used to anything that might be part of it,” Nordahl-Hansen said. “And the language thing can be a barrier.”
As an international student, Nordahl-Hansen said he tries to be extremely diligent and do research before making large financial commitments.
“When I first came here I was more aware that I didn’t know anything, and therefore, I didn’t trust anything,” he said. “Even when I was doing car insurance and stuff like that, I would be researching more because I was unfamiliar.”
Carlisle said DPS is still searching for the suspect and it is important for students to report any information they might have.
“Don’t be afraid to report a scam if you think you might have been victimized,” Carlisle said. “You might be able to help other students avoid falling into the same situation.”