Dear University Community,
Although the academic year has not started, Colorado State University has received multiple reports of email scams targeting incoming students, returning students and employees. These scams are primarily attempts to get individuals to respond to a job offer. These emails are not from members of our university community, but appear to be because the “from” email address is “@colostate.edu.”
City and county law enforcement also report that individuals in the area are receiving scam phone calls from someone posing as a law enforcement officer calling about an arrest warrant.
Scammers are exceptionally creative and sophisticated, and scams are perpetuated through phone calls, texts, emails, social media and sometimes in person. Scammers go to great lengths to appear credible, even creating authentic looking websites or social media accounts. Sometimes, scammers look at your social media accounts or other information available online to gather details about you that make them appear credible, and, on occasion, they will hack into confidential online systems, such as databases with personal information, and use that to appear to be authentic.
It can be difficult to sort truth from fiction. However, there are a few common threads that can indicate a scam.
Examples of other scams that have targeted students in the last year include:
- Scams targeting international students with threats of deportation (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/02/scammers-go-after-international-students-money?utm_source=govdelivery)
- Calls from individuals claiming to be from law enforcement agencies regarding charges of failing to appear in court or missed jury duty or other reasons for an arrest warrant
- Calls from other government agencies claiming stolen identities
The university’s IT office has been working to better protect our community from these sorts of scams. However, scammers target individuals through multiple communications avenues, including social media, text messages, and phone calls.
This message will provide you with information about some (but not all) of these false and misleading messages, red flags to watch for, and how to report suspected scams.
Three hallmarks of a scam
Virtually every scam uses one or more of these elements to hook a potential victim and obtain money:
- Random, unsolicited requests for money or financial information, or offers of money or a job.
- High pressure including intimidation, fear of harm to yourself or someone else, or high pressure to trust the scammer or do what they say before they will stop communicating with you.
- Intimidate, threats and fear, including threats of embarrassment, harm to the caller/scammer, harm to you or others.
Red flags that it is a scam
In addition to these three hallmarks of a scam, these red flags help you identify potential scams:
- If someone pressures you for payment via Venmo, PayPal, gift cards, Western Union, or MoneyGram, be extremely cautious and validate the request before sending any money.
- Government agencies generally won’t call you and demand payment to avoid being arrested, charged with a crime or being deported.
- Some scammers will accuse you of committing intentional fraud or threaten that information about you is being sent to collections for a debt that you have not incurred.
- If you are an international student, do not send money to resolve threats that you will be arrested or deported. Go to the INTO or International Programs offices for help.
- Never share sensitive, personal, or financial information over the phone, email, or social media, even if the person seems legitimate and the information they are sharing is accurate.
- The university does not allow unsolicited job offers to be emailed to employees and students over university email, even if the offer appears to come from a student or employee.
- If you are offered a job that sounds too good to be true, it likely is. If you are asked to purchase anything as part of an unsolicited job, it is likely a scam.
- Talk to your bank before depositing checks from sources you don’t know and trust, particularly sources asking for help with transferring money, or who are offering you an unsolicited job.
- Some scams threaten embarrassment by building personal relationships with you, then asking for sexual, compromising or embarrassing videos, photos or information. Once they have that information, they then threaten to share the images or information unless they are paid. If you experience one of these scams, contact your local law enforcement.
- Other scams are perpetrated online, often via dating or social media sites, under the guise of romantic interest, often spending months building trust yet never being available to meet in person. These scammers will build an online relationship with their victim, and then get the victim to send money or gift cards to help them out of financial or legal trouble.
- Protect your personal information. Lock down privacy options on social media, and don’t accept requests to engage from people you don’t know.
- Don’t provide access to your Social Security number or financial account information to anyone.
- Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know and trust through a money exchange site such as Venmo or Paypal, gift cards, Western Union, or Moneygram.
- If you were contacted by someone claiming to be with a government or financial agency, validate the information. Search the internet for an independent source of this information. Don’t call the numbers given to you or visit a website provided to you via phone or email to validate authenticity. Many time the scammer will “spoof” a phone number so that it appears the call is from a government agency or another local or United States number. However, scammers are often individuals who are working overseas.
- Google the phone number that called or texted you. Is it on a scam alert warning website?
- Look up online information about the office or agency that called you. Does the phone number you were given match?
- If you are being threatened with collections, arrest or deportation, call the number listed online (not the one provided to you by the potential scammer) of the agency, such as the police department or IRS. Ask to verify the information you were provided.
- Visit online sites that list scams, such as consumer.ftc.gov, to check any request for money or information.
If you believe that someone is trying to target you with a scam, consider reporting it at one of these online locations: https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds#item-35157, https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety or https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.
- If you have fallen victim to a scam and have given money, financial information, personal information or gift cards to someone, report it to the local police department that has jurisdiction over your residence – your local city police or county sheriff’s office.
- If you are a student who lives on campus or an employee who has fallen victim to a scam as part of your employment with CSU, report scams to CSUPD (https://police.colostate.edu/).
- Preserve evidence, such as text messages, social media communications, emails, receipts from credit or gift cards, bank statements, and other evidence that may help police investigate the scam.
If you have been a victim of a scam, don’t be embarrassed to make a report. Scams target thousands of people across the globe on a daily basis and, although it may feel like CSU is singled out, scammers rarely only target our community; the scams we experience are perpetrated worldwide.
Chief Scott Harris, CSUPD