Since the beginning of the school year, students have been receiving e-mails from companies, such as ‘Offshore Nice Inc,’ offering them jobs that allow the students to make money by working in “the comfort of your home or school.” The e-mails are being sent out by scammers who are attempting to learn recipients’ information and steal money from them.
Public Safety lieutenant Chris Lyons says that the scammers “advertise big money for no work and kids jump at it, and then they find out that money has been taken out of their account.”
College students are big targets for such scams, from which attackers seek to gain various information, such as birthdays. Lyons says that the biggest two bits of information that the scammers wish to find are social security numbers and numbers for debit and credit cards. Once the senders of these e-mails have this information, they can make it available to anyone.
“Once your information is out there, it’s out there. Anyone can have access to it,” says Lt. Lyons.
E-mails aren’t the only way in which your information can be stolen. Phone calls are another method used by people seeking to steal other’s information. These scammers are easier to spot as Public Safety warns students that no legitimate business will ever ask for personal information over the phone.
People all over the world fall victim to such scams. The scammers use various methods to steal the information including gaining the trust of people whom they are about to steal from.
“It’s not just college students,” says Lt. Lyons, “This happens all across society where people get scammed liked this. They have a convincing person on the phone, sounds like a nice person on the other end…and by the time you know it, you’ve given up all of your information, because they’re big on trust. They’re big on building trust and then they use that to get you.”
It is difficult to put a stop to these scams as so many people are taking part in it, because it is an easy way to make money. Scammers make hundreds of calls or send out hundreds of e-mails per day. If they are successful for even a small number of these calls or e-mails, they can make a large profit. There is also little punishment if they are caught.
“People who get caught doing this don’t face any time in jail,” says Lt. Lyons, “It’s not a crime of violence. On the scale of things, on the totality of crime, violent crimes always get addressed first. Larcenies, property crime – way at the end. So, there is really no resolution. People can get arrested again and again for this and they don’t serve any time.”
Public Safety works with both Hartford and West Hartford police to ensure that the University is as safe as it can be. Lyons reiterates that the best way to avoid becoming a victim of theft is to avoid responding to the e-mails. If someone has already been victimized, they should contact the police, who can most likely retrieve the stolen money.
“If someone is a true victim of a scam, larceny scam, or if their bank account is being drained, that has to go to the police department,” says Lt. Lyons, “and then you get an official police report, and then you can proceed to protect yourself… If you’re the victim of a scam, you’re going to get your money back, but sometimes it takes a long time, and now your information is out there, so you have to change everything about the way you do business.”
Lieutenant Lyons would like to give the following message to the students of the University of Hartford:
“Never give any personal information out to anyone; no personal information, no address, no birth date, never a social security number and never your debit or credit card. That’s the best way to protect yourself from someone who’s trying to steal from you and that’s what these scammers do.”