University Police urge campus community to beware of scams this summer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Out of the blue, you receive a phone call from a random phone number. The voice on the other end of the line tells you someone you care about has been involved in a vehicle accident and fled the scene. The caller explains they tracked down your loved one and is holding them hostage until you send money for the damages to their vehicle.

This scam started in Puerto Rico in 1998 and has taken on many forms. Another form of this scam comes in a phone call as the scammer pretends to be your loved one who is in a foreign city and has been mugged or lost their wallet. They need you to wire money to them so they can get back home.

Scams such as these occasionally occur in the campus community, according to Penn State University Police, and citizens can take steps to protect themselves. 

So what should you do if you get one of these calls? Most importantly, don’t provide the caller with personal information or send money. Attempt to contact your loved one and determine their whereabouts and confirm their safety. Don’t panic if you cannot reach them on the first try. Continue to attempt to contact them while also calling your local police department.

These are not the only types of scams University Police have seen plaguing our community in recent years. University Police report an increase in work-at-home email scams. Common work-from-home schemes include stuffing envelopes, medical transcription, buy and selling real estate, investment schemes, data entry and processing applications to name a few. One characteristic common to these schemes is that you are required to invest or send away money before you can start work. These promises of quick money usually involve at best a pyramid scheme or at worst are intended only to scam you out of money. A rule of thumb for these types of scams is to remember, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

As summer begins, another scam frequently seen is driveway sealing. A work crew knocks on your door claiming they have “left over asphalt” from a local job and can reseal your driveway for a discounted rate. After the job is done, they claim there was a mistake in the price quoted and you owe thousands of dollars more for the work completed. They threaten legal action and pressure the victim to go to the bank and withdraw the funds. These scams usually target the elderly community, however anyone can fall victim. Even if you have not been approached but you suspect any type of unsolicited work scams in your area, contact your local police immediately. Be sure to provide a description of the suspects and vehicles. Most importantly, never let a solicitor inside your home. Even if you are successful in refusing their offer for work, they may be successful in using distraction techniques to steal valuables from inside your home or cause physical harm.

Thieves are constantly coming up with new ways to scam victims out of funds, using aggressive, fast talking and threatening tactics to convince victims to do as they request. If they indicate their deal is only good for today and today only, you can assume it’s a scam. Remember, you are in control and you can slow things down to ensure you are not being scammed. If the business is legitimate, they will still conduct business with you after you have had a chance to research their validity.

For more information on common scams, prevention and corrective actions, please visit www.police.psu.edu/identitytheft.

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Last Updated June 20, 2013