URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — A student at the University of Illinois was recently scammed out of $89,000 by someone claiming to be from the Chinese Consulate General’s office.

University Police said the student received a phone call around June 19 and the person on the other end claimed the student’s passport was involved in a criminal investigation. The student was told that he needed to pay $150,000 to clear his name; as directed, he wired $89,000 to banks in California, the Bahamas and Hong Kong.

The student contacted the UIPD on Saturday when his parents became suspicious about the missing money.

The UIPD said that many scammers tend to target international students as there are often language or cultural barriers that make them more susceptible to scams. The department maintains a log of scams that are reported to them by members of the university community and lists several red flag signs that a request or demand may be a scam:

  • No government official (including police officers, immigration officials and tax agents) will ever demand money over the phone
  • Scammers try to intimidate victims with empty threats of arrest or deportation
  • Scammers will often demand payment in the form of something other than cash, like gift cards or virtual currency
  • To avoid banks becoming suspicious, scammers will sometimes direct victims to visit a series of banks to withdraw cash in small portions that eventually add up
  • Scammers often spoof phone numbers of legitimate agencies (as was the case in last week’s scam)

People who receive a call or text containing one or several of these red flags are encouraged to hang up immediately and call police. The 24-hour non-emergency number for the UIPD is 217-333-1216.