UNCW students fall prey to telephonic extortion scams

Casey McAnarney, Editor in Chief

Students across UNC Wilmington’s campus have fallen victim to scams over the phone regarding the transfer of money to unknown individuals.

Detective Sergeant Kelli Kotler said that students have received calls regarding debt or having a warrant out for their arrest, and that to alleviate these issues, they only need to send in the card number of an iTunes gift card.

“Most scammers are advising the individual to get pre-paid cards or iTunes cards and then they get the card number off the cards [from the students over the phone],” Kotler said.

According to UNCW’s crime log, the amount of money scammed out of students ranges from $50 to $600 in iTunes or other gift cards.

There have been several occasions where students have been scammed, according to the UNCW Police Department, so they advise students not to comply with unknown individuals’ demands over the phone.

A lot of times, the mystery person on the other end of the line will claim to be some government official, whether that be with a police department or with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Most of these students do not understand that a government agency would never ask for money over the phone, Kotler said. “If someone does ask for money over the phone and they get angry when you try to hang up it is usually a scam of some sort.”

These agencies also would never ask for you to go to Walmart, CVS or a place like that to purchase cards and then give them the information.

Another scam happening right now are on websites where students are looking for jobs. These people will tell the student that they will send them a check and they will have the student deposit the check in their checking account. They then tell them to keep a portion of the money for their expenses but to send the rest back to the individual.

In this case, the check is fraudulent. When the UNCW Police Department receives scams like this, officers work with Information Technology Services to try and have the website removed and blocked. They have also worked with the FBI regarding the phone scams.

“The advice we try to give everyone is that again, no government agency will ever ask for money over the phone,” Kotler said. “If they did, that would be a scam. If someone thinks something doesn’t seem right then it probably isn’t. They should just hang up and call the police to let them know what is going on.”

Most of these scams are dealing with people in other countries or other states. Kotler advises that one does not necessarily need to trust the phone number because some of them may look legitimate and will even come back to a certain place like a police department or the IRS. However, these numbers are being “spoofed.”

No agency will ask an individual to give payment in the forms of iTunes cards, prepaid cards or money grams, Kotler reiterated. Also, no UNCW university official will ask a student for money unless it is in the form of a donation.

Casey McAnarney, @casey_mcanarney

If you have a question about this or any other incident that you may think is a scam you should call the University Police Department to inquire about it. The police department’s non-emergency number is 910-962-2222.

Campus police also ask that everyone involved in a scam report it to www.ic3.gov and www.ftc.gov/complaint, the Federal Trade Commission.