UI international students targeted, scammed over $400,000 

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By Jessie Wang, Staff Writer

The University of Illinois Police Department reported that several international students have been victims of scams. One scam resulted in a loss of $90,000, and another resulted in a loss of over $300,000. 

On Nov. 21, UIPD reported that a student received a call from someone pretending to be a representative of the Chinese Embassy in Chicago. The caller claimed the student’s passport was linked to international crime and threatened the student with deportation. The student wired $90,000 to avoid the supposed criminal charges. 

The $300,000 scam occurred on Oct. 20. A student received a text from someone claiming to be Chinese police. The scammer said that the student’s passport was connected to illegal activity, and the student transferred $315,903 to the claimed police officer to avoid prosecution.

These recent cases are just a few examples of many that have occurred in the past year. Students have lost anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. 

Most cases occur when scammers pose as law enforcement or immigration officers. However, students are targeted by other scenarios, such as love scams, tax scams and tuition scams. 

According to the UIPD website, “The scammers tend to target international students … (because) there are language or cultural barriers that make international students more susceptible.”

Wes Wang, a sophomore in LAS and an international student from China, explained a pattern he sees in the people who are scammed.

“Most of the time, (the student) is extremely rich, and they don’t really know how things work,” he said. 

He also said many students are not aware of these scams. 

“I feel like around 80% of people, specifically freshmen, don’t know about scams,” Wang said. “Even if (students) know that (scams occur), when it’s actually happening to them, they don’t realize it.”

According to the Illinois International Student and Scholar Services website, scammers often try to intimidate students with false threats of arrest or deportation. Since scammers often know the names and background information of their targets, the scams appear legitimate. 

UIPD’s website also provides several red flags for students to keep in mind when they receive a message from an unknown caller: 

  • No government official will ever demand money over the phone.
  • Scammers try to intimidate victims with empty threats of arrest or deportation. If a caller threatens to have you arrested if you hang up, the call is likely a scam.
  • Often, scammers will demand payment in the form of something other than cash
  • Sometimes, scammers will direct you to visit a series of banks to withdraw cash in small amounts to avoid detection
  • Scammers often “spoof” phone numbers of legitimate agencies. If you have doubts about a caller’s identity, you should hang up and call the listed number for that agency to speak to a representative.

UIPD advises that if someone encounters any red flags, they should hang up and call the police. UIPD’s 24-hour nonemergency number is 217-333-1216.

 

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