A student called UTDPD on Oct. 16 to report a caller claiming to be an agent of the Internal Revenue Service to coax money from the student.
The scammer asked the international student to deposit $460 for taxes at a location near Coit Road and threatened the student with an arrest warrant, said UTDPD Lt. Ken MacKenzie.
“We want to make students aware that the Internet scams are out there, and a lot of our students fall victim,” he said.
International students are targeted more frequently, but these telephone scams are not specific to UTD, MacKenzie said.
This follows a report from a student on Sept. 9 to UTDPD. The student was searching for work as a nanny on an international service website. The swindlers, who claimed to be in Australia, reportedly said they needed help in establishing themselves in the United States.
They sent the student fraudulent checks and had her deposit funds into her bank; the student was asked to send back money in the form of VISA gift cards, MacKenzie said.
When her bank notified her that the check was fraudulent, the student stopped the next transaction. An initial $300 card had already been cashed, but the student could have potentially lost $1,800, MacKenzie said.
UTDPD shares reports of scams and frauds with the Information Security Office.
The most common types of frauds Information Security deals with involves emails, telephone calls and text messages, said Director of Information Security Nate Howe. . They will often involve con artists claiming to work for government agencies such as the FBI or IRS, banks and the university help desk, Howe said.
There is at least one report daily, he said. In most cases, as people become more familiar with the signs of a scam, they’ll often delete it and disregard it, but there continues to be a portion of people who haven’t become aware of those signs, Howe said. Those are the potential victims.
Jon-Paul McGowan, who focuses on awareness and outreach for Information Security, said if students or staff members suspect an email is malignant, they should always forward it to the department.
“Even if we have seen it, we’ll at least confirm,” McGowan said. “It may be that you’ve discovered something we haven’t seen yet, or you’re the first to get it. What we can do is take that breadcrumb trail, follow it back and block anything coming from that vector.”
In the past, scams could be identified through spelling and grammar errors, but swindlers are much more cognizant to this tip now, he said.
Some of the emails are caught by filters, but as scammers get more creative, emails are designed to bypass these checks.
Government offices like the IRS or the Immigration and Naturalization Service will never email people regarding serious matters, McGowan said.
“(Scammers) need to instill a sense of fear and urgency,” he said. “They don’t want you to think logically. They don’t want to give you a second to realize that this doesn’t make sense.”
Whether callers say they’re from the FBI or the bank, Howe suggests taking the time to research the legitimacy of any cold call. Students should take down the number and politely ask to call back, he said.
“If you feel pressured, that’s usually indication that somebody is trying to take advantage of your fears,” Howe said.
Students should contact the police regarding phone calls and should report to Information Security if it is an electronic scam, he said.
Information Security analyst Nick McCormick said the worst case he’s experienced involved 14 victims.
There are hackers who launch campaigns for recreational purposes and bystanders who unknowingly hack others, Howe said.
Information Security also has seen a rise in people seeking identity information because it can be sold, resold and reused, McGowan said.
Anything that compromises an individual’s identity in a way that credit can be used in his or her name and can have serious consequences on the victims future, Howe said.
“It’s a very important point for people to remember, especially at the age of being college students just starting out, that in the future they’re going to want to buy a car, buy a house and apply for jobs,” he said. “Those all depend on having a clean credit report.”
Job postings offering work-from-home positions and apartment postings, like those found on Craigslist, can be a cache for scams, Howe said.
Information posted on social media has the potential to hurt people in unexpected ways, Howe said.
Howe said the answers to security questions — the kind needed to reset passwords — could be easily researched and accessed via social media sites like Facebook.
“It doesn’t mean (social media) can’t be enjoyed, but it should also be balanced with an awareness that your privacy is going to go away unless you take an interest in it, he said.”