Bank fraud targets students

By Nick Escobar

Some students on campus are learning that there is no such thing as free money.

University police are investigating an ongoing bank scam in which students are asked to hand over their debit cards and pin numbers with the promise of receiving a sum of money in return. Instead, the suspects withdraw money from the account.

In some cases, the suspects steal from the banks by instructing students to empty their account so that they can make a false deposit electronically into the bank accounts via the ATM. Then they withdraw the false deposit before the banks verify the transactions made through the ATM.

Police said that the fraud targets students who are naive about their money and those in need of quick cash.

“Somewhere, someone said they got paid,” said Jody Huffman, University police detective. “So that’s why students keep doing it.”

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Local banks, aware of the ongoing fraud, warn customers on a one-on-one basis.

“One reason that college students might be targeted to take part in a scam is their relative youth and inexperience with both banking and law enforcement,” said Calmetta Coleman, media relations manager for Chase and Bank One. “They may not realize that there are real consequences of participating in any scheme to commit fraud.”

“Never write it (your pin) down,” said Nancy Merz, vice president of Busey Bank. “They (people) say ‘I couldn’t remember it so I wrote it on the card.'”

Merz said banks are seeing an increase in these types of crimes. She added that identity theft is increasing while armed robberies are declining.

Detective Huffman stressed students take certain measures to protect themselves from the scam. She encouraged students to keep track of their financial property, such as a debit card or checkbook. Students should limit their liability by memorizing their pin and not revealing it to anyone else. But most importantly, Huffman said that something that sounds too good to be true probably is.

“I think that with a bank account it’s more than just your money,” said Liane Malinowski, sophomore in LAS. “It’s your relationship with the bank, your credit – so you would be giving more than just your money away.”

Richard Justice, executive director of the Senate Committee of Discipline, said the University would take disciplinary actions against any students linked to the crimes.

“The University would have a disciplinary hearing and would be deciding if they would still be continuing as students,” Justice said.