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Scammers are now Threatening Students With Arrests; Here's how it Works

The callers threatened the students with arrest or university disciplinary measures unless they transferred money.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Adam Berry
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Adam Berry

As authorities and cybersecurity experts as well as common people are working on raising awareness to thwart fraudulent schemes, scammers are coming up with new ploys from impersonation to identity theft and deepfake to fool unsuspecting victims. The latest in a series of such ploys is a scam involving phone calls that target university students and threaten them with arrest or disciplinary measures. They use it to intimidate victims into transferring money via wire transfers, bank transfers, gift cards, or virtual payment apps like Venmo or Cash App.

Pexels | Photo by Keira Burton
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Keira Burton

Police advised recipients of these scam calls to hang up immediately and report the incident to the authorities. Law enforcement stressed that they would never call to threaten legal action or request personal information, financial details, or any form of payment.

They continue to conduct interviews and search for video footage of the suspects as part of their ongoing investigation. "This is despicable criminal behavior preying on vulnerable individuals who rely on their hard-earned savings and pension income, exploiting their trust in the police," said New Westminster police Sgt. Andrew Leaver in a statement.

Unsplash | Photo by niu niu
Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by niu niu

Just last month, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department issued a statement cautioning students, particularly international students, about prevalent online scams exploiting concerns related to visas and immigration.

According to Xin Cui-Dowling, a graduate program manager in the Mathematics Department, one international student fell victim to a fraudulent phone call, resulting in a loss of $250,000. The scammers often converse with students in their native language to exploit their vulnerabilities.

"The scammers speak Chinese, so it is obvious that these scams target Chinese students," remarked Cui-Dowling. "They are a very vulnerable group. They are far away from home and are always concerned about their visa status."

Image Source: Photo by Kuncheek | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Kuncheek | Pexels

UWPD highlighted the five most common scams: fake landlords, fraudulent job offers, gift card schemes, impersonating police officers, and government official scams. "We see [the government official scam] most often targeting our international students or employees," stated the UWPD statement. "One way to stop this scam is to contact the actual department being mentioned and make your own inquiries."

Earlier this year, the FBI issued a public service announcement regarding fake Chinese police officers targeting international Chinese students. Additionally, a 2021 report from U.S. News identified immigration, housing, and tax-related scams as the most prevalent among international students. The report echoed UWPD's advice, emphasizing that if something seems too good to be true, it's likely a scam.

Students must keep in mind these tips to efficiently save their pocket money and enjoy rest of the month| Pexels
Image Source: Students | Pexels

Phishing incidents are also on the rise, evidenced by a significant surge in compromised student accounts. Data reveals a stark increase from seven compromised accounts in the third quarter of 2022 to a staggering 82 in the second quarter of 2023.

Besides posing threats of email account shutdowns, scammers commonly lure students with enticing job offers, promising better pay and greater flexibility than typically available on campus. Upon securing their victims' trust, they may assign menial tasks and subsequently issue fraudulent paychecks. Later, they falsely claim to have overpaid the recipients and demand the excess funds be returned.