UI Police educating students to avoid scams


URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — More U of I students have been falling for phone and email scams, losing thousands of dollars.

The university is trying to do all it can to prevent people from giving away their money. There have been reports of scams targeting seniors but, as it turns out, college students are also vulnerable.

Some have been victims of social security scams and, most recently, a scam involving a pet sitting job offer. UIPD says out of the cases reported to them, international students are the majority of those who end up giving away money.

UIPD spokesperson Pat Wade says, “We take it personally anytime on of our students are victimized by anything, like scams especially if they’re out large sums of money.”

In total last year, ten people fell victim at U of I, sending various amounts of their money through money sharing apps or bitcoin virtual money. To date this year, there have been fifteen people.

Wade says, “College students and international students in particular are a vulnerable population when it comes to scams. With international students, they don’t necessarily speak English as a native language so they don’t pick up on the weird quirks when they get an email.”

In the most recent case, an email was sent to students offering a pet sitting job. The scammer sent a check for $2,450 and in exchange told the student to send $2,000 making it seem like they would make a profit. When the check bounced, the victim lost their money. This is one of the lesser amounts of money UIPD has seen students give away.

Wade says, “We’ve seen people who fall for scams and end up losing all their tuition money. That’s really hard for us to see.”

Scam warning education has become a regular safety message included in freshman orientation and with the international student scholar service office. UIPD also sends warning alert emails to students.

There are some common warning signs that something is likely a scam….

  • Threats of arrest or deportation
  • Payment in the form of gift cards
  • Sending money to a third party
  • No legitimate government official will demand payment over the phone

With 50,000 students on campus, UIPD says it can be difficult to educate everybody on the warning signs because so many people filter through the university. They say the number of scam reports on campus remains steady throughout the year.

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