Fraudulent scams are not new and can occur anywhere, including the UTA campus. The effects of these scams can be significant, but are preventable by understanding the manner in which these scammers attempt to lure their victims into handing over their money.
As a rule of thumb, always be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls that demand money, often threatening adverse action if payment isn’t made. The more aggressive or harder they push for money, the more suspicious you should be. Legitimate collection efforts won’t object to you doing research and verifying the validity of the request.
STOP, THINK, PROTECT YOURSELF
Below are some of the common or recent scams seen on the UTA campus:
Scammers are everywhere and looking to take advantage of unsuspecting members of our community. Here are some tips to help prevent being the victim of a COVID-19-related scam:
- Be wary of any emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) with information about the virus. These organizations have websites that are updated with information. Links to those websites are:
- Links in unsolicited emails could be dangerous. Don’t click links from sources you aren’t familiar with as this could install viruses or malware on your computer or device.
- Don’t trust offers of COVID-19 vaccinations. There currently are no products available, online or otherwise, to treat or cure the disease.
- Be smart about charitable donations for initiatives related to COVID-19. Don’t let anyone pressure you into a donation. Be especially skeptical if they require donations through cash, gift card, or wiring money—a major red flag for scams.
- If someone knocks on your door or approaches you offering COVID-19 testing, then it is most likely a scam. Testing is limited right now through public health authorities and health care providers. If you feel you have been exposed, reach out to your health care provider for testing.
In this scam, a person will call you and claim to be an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee. The caller claims you owe unpaid taxes and must make immediate payment, often through certified check, money order, or gift cards. The caller threatens you with arrest if payment isn’t made immediately or within a very short timeframe.
If asked, the scammer may provide a phone number. If you call that telephone number, the person who answers the telephone will answer with “IRS”. This telephone number is not a legitimate phone number for the IRS. The phone number on caller ID is also fake, so don’t use that one, either.
The IRS doesn’t demand immediate collection of tax debts via unsolicited telephone calls. Don’t make any payment or provide your credit/debit card information to anyone who claims to be an IRS employee over the telephone. If you want to check the validity of the alleged “IRS” telephone call, do not call the number that the caller provided. You should look up the telephone number for your local IRS office and call that number to verify the alleged “IRS” telephone call.
Financial Aid, Immigration, or Other Official Scam
Some scammers will take the same approach as the IRS scam, but will claim to be representing another official entity. They claim a fee or debt is owed (e.g. student fees, immigration fees, etc.) and immediate payment must be made. Their threats will attempt to sway you because of the potential for removal from school, loss of immigration status, or other adverse actions if the debt isn't addressed immediately. Don't fall for their pressure tactics.
You may be contacted through social media by someone you’ve never met. They may strike up a conversation and ask you to video chat or send pictures of you that are private. Once they have private video or photos of you, they will contact you and threaten to post the images/video to YouTube or send them to everyone on your friends list unless you pay. Never post information or photographs on social media sites that could be used later on to blackmail you.
Also, protect your privacy from stalkers – don’t share too much information about your location, employment, family, or when you are out of town on vacation or home alone. Never verify personal account or password information over the phone or internet unless you know for sure with whom you are speaking.
In this scam, the victim recieves an email promising a job opportunity if you go to a website link. The email has the appearance of originating from the Job Placement and Student Services office or similar official sounding office. Unfortunately, there isn’t any office of that name on campus. The scammers will try to transfer or send the victim a check for a large sum of money. They ask the victim to get cashier's checks, money orders, or other similar payment and send to a specified address. Once the checks are sent, the original check is found to be fraudulent, resulting in a loss for the victim.
The allure of this scam is the promise of a sizeable payment for very little work. If something appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.
Professor or Official Seeking Payment
This approach involves a sender that is requesting individuals purchase a “Google play card from the store”. Other reports have indicated requests for other forms of payment, such as Apple Gift Card, or similar form of payment. The scammer makes the purchase of the card urgent with a promise of reimbursement. In these cases, the reimbursement is never received. The sender uses a legitimate professor or official's name, but the email address used is not from UTA.
Here are a some tips to make sure you don’t fall prey to these scams:
- Be suspicious of communications with urgent requests for payment.
- Always call the sender of a message if you asked to send money or do something out of the ordinary. Do not rely solely on email communication.
- If you think this is a legitimate request, please review the sender information to see whether it is a valid UTA address or verify by phone. Do not reply directly to the email that was sent to you. Instead call the sender and inform them of the message.
- Use your good judgement – if the email is uncharacteristic of the sender, has spelling mistakes or poor grammar, then treat it with suspicion. Call the sender to clarify what’s being asked.
- For Faculty and Staff: Please understand and learn the University policy on gift cards – the University does not permit ProCard purchases or reimbursed gift cards.
- Ignore any request for payment via gift card. "Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always, always, always a scammer," according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). "Gift cards are for gifts, not payments."
- Verify emails with unusual requests for money (via wire transfer, gift card, bank information, or other means) by contacting the Information Security Office at firstname.lastname@example.org before acting. They can provide you with additional guidelines to verify if this is a valid request.
- You may also forward suspicious emails to the Office of Information Technology at email@example.com.