The Department of Public Safety sent an email Monday warning students about recent scams targeting international students.
This past semester, 17 students lost an average of $3,500 due to these scams, and some have lost up to $16,000, according to the email.
Assistant Chief David Carlisle, said scammers ask for money posing as public entities such as the International Revenue Service or the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
“I’ve often said during orientation presentations, particularly to international students, that they’ll never be contacted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service saying they owe a fine,” Carlisle said. “In the last several months we’ve had a number of students who’ve been victimized that we decided we needed to put out a university-wide information bulletin to let students know to be aware of those scams.”
Freshman journalism student and Shanghai native Marilyn Chang said she has not been targeted by one of these scams, but that she knows not to engage with people or entities that ask her for money.
“If I ever had an interaction with any company or center or institutions like that, [I would] hang up,” Chang said. “Just don’t talk to random strangers on the phone.”
Kenneth Yim, a sophomore majoring in communication from South Korea, said he learned about IRS scams last year when he was studying at Emory University.
“I’m actually a transfer student and so I received IRS scam [training] from my previous university because [as] freshmen there they taught us about scams like that because they happened all the time,” Yim said.
Carlisle said that scammers may target students on sites like Craigslist, and that students should arrange to pick up their orders at the DPS office if they suspect they are being scammed.
In general, the email states that students who are making a transaction with a person they don’t know should request a DPS officer be present or ask the person to meet with them at the DPS station in the Downey Way Parking Structure.
The email also warns students that some scammers may contact students on social media or via online chat platforms and make them believe they are entering a consensual online sexual encounter while secretly recording them. The scammers then threaten to make the video public unless the student pays them through money transfer services like MoneyGram and Western Union.
“This is a criminal act known as extortion and is a serious crime,” the email read. “Scams such as these can be avoided. Do not respond to friend requests from complete strangers. Never send strangers money or give them your credit card information.”
Carlisle said that if students suspect they are being contacted by scammers or have been the victim of a scam, they should contact DPS immediately.
“If they feel they have been scammed and have been the victim, don’t be embarrassed. Call DPS,” Carlisle said. “We’re there to help them, and we will get the proper outside authorities involved whether it be the LAPD or some of those entities such as the IRS who have their own investigators.”