URBANA, Ill. (WAND) - University of Illinois Police are reminding students to be on the watch for potential scams.
Scams are expected to pick up now that tax season has arrived. International students are especially vulnerable with scammers targeting them.
In January, a student attempted to call the customer service line for a mobile app used to make payments to ask about a refund they were supposed to be getting. The person who answered was posing as a customer service agent and claimed the student would need to purchase a Google Play gift card and transmit that information over the phone so that the refund could be processed.
When the student bought the gift card, the scammer then demanded another payment in the form of gift cards.
In February, a university employee was defrauded of $1,500 by an unknown person. The scammer impersonated a colleague of the employee and asked the employee via email to purchase iTunes gift cards as a birthday gift for the colleague's son.
The employee purchased the gift cards and sent the card numbers to scammer, who claimed they would pay the employee back.
In February, a student reported saw unauthorized charges to her bank account totaling $939 between September 2018 and February 2019. She tried to contact her bank. A person purporting to be a bank representative told her to purchase $600 worth of Google Play gift cards and transmit the card information over the phone. The student purchased the cards, but called authorities when she felt something was wrong.
UI Police warn students to be on the lookout for these common red flags:
- 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.
- The scammers promise some kind of service in return – either that they would repay the victim or process a refund.
Another common scam is callers pretending to be with the U.S. government or IRS. 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 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 UI Police Lt. Tom Geis. "It's important to remember that no legitimate government agency or business will accept payment in the form of gift cards."