This section will be updated regularly with new content alerting the university community to current crime trends and offer advice regarding how to avoid becoming a victim.
How does the crime take place?
A potential victim is sent a solicitation via mail, text or email asking the consumer to evaluate their retail experience, products and services at stores. After responding to the ad, the consumer receives an “employment packet” containing a training assignment, a list of products to purchase at various stores and a realistic looking check often for $2,000 to $4,000.
The “training assignment” is for the consumer to deposit the check into the consumer’s bank account, purchase the items on the Shopping List and then use a wire transfer service to send the balance of the check’s proceeds, after the consumer finishes shopping, to an address outside of the US, often in Canada. The check that the consumer deposited in their account is counterfeit, a fact unbeknownst to the consumer. The balance of money sent to the fraudster is real and the consumer is now out that money and is liable for any and all penalties associated with the bounced check.
Should you receive an email soliciting you to become a “Secret Shopper:”
• Don’t open or respond to unsolicited e-mails asking you to become a mystery or secret shopper.
• Never deposit a check you receive in the mail from a “mystery shopping” company. No legitimate business will pay in advance and ask you to send a portion of the money back.
• If you have posted your resume to an online job site, verify with the site any job solicitations you receive.
• Don’t click on or respond to online ads or Web sites offering free gift cards.
• Remember, if it sounds too good to believe, it is!
Pass this information on to at least one other person.
There are multiple scams targeting universities, university employees, and students across the nation. The scams range from Internet fraud to intrusions. The following are common scenarios:
- Spear phishing e-mails are being sent to university employees that appear to be from their employer. The e-mail contains a link and claims some type of issue has risen requiring them to enter their log-in credentials. Once employees provide their user name and password, the perpetrator accesses the university’s computer system to redirect the employees’ payroll allocation to another bank account. The university employees’ payroll allocations are being deposited into students’accounts. These students were hired through online advertisements for work-at-home jobs, and provided their bank account information to the perpetrators to receive payment for the work they performed.
- Scammers are posting online advertisements soliciting college students for administrative positions in which they would receive checks via the mail or e-mail. Students are directed to deposit the checks into their accounts, and then print checks and/or wire money to an individual. Students are never asked to provide their bank account information to the perpetrators.
- Perpetrators are compromising students’ credential resulting in the rerouting of their reimbursement money to other bank accounts. The reimbursement money is from student loans and used to pay tuition, books, and living expenses.
- Perpetrators are obtaining professors’ Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and using it to file fraudulent income tax returns.
- Some universities have been victims of intrusions, resulting in the perpetrators being able to access university databases containing information on their employees and students.
If you have been a victim of one of these scams or any other Internet related scam, we encourage you to notify Public Safety.
Public Safety aims provide a safe and enjoyable on-campus experience. In an effort to accomplish this goal, Public Safety has provided a few tips to help keep you safe.
- The use of cell phones and ear plugs are distracting. Avoid their use; be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Plan your trip in advance. Know how to get to your destination by the most direct and safest route.
- When possible, travel with a friend and make every effort to travel in populated, well-lit areas. Use the buddy system—do not walk alone—especially at night.
- Carry only the amount of cash or number of credit cards necessary to make a purchase. Avoid displaying valuables (jewelry, cell phone, iPod, cash, etc.)
- Secure all bicycles to a bicycle rack with a sturdy lock. Kryptonite U-Locks are available for purchase through Public Safety at a significantly reduced price.
- When in a restaurant, place your bag in your lap and don’t leave anything hanging over the back of your chair or on the floor.
- Do not leave valuables unattended at any time, even for just a few seconds (e.g.,cell phones, laptop, iPod, purses, and wallets).
- Secure any valuables in your room in a safe place. Always lock your room and suite door. Do not allow or encourage unauthorized visitors.
- If you must leave any items in your car, be sure to place them out of sight in the trunk of your vehicle prior to reaching your destination. Never leave packages in the passenger compartment unattended.
- Familiarize yourself with campus transportation, the campus escort service, and shuttle bus schedules.
- Emergency telephones are located throughout our campuses for use in an emergency.
- Notify Public Safety of any suspicious persons, conditions, or objects. We will respond and investigate. Public Safety Contact Information
- Always have your StormCard with you and do not lend it to anyone.
- Know the location of fire extinguishers, pull stations, and emergency exits.
Ensuring Your Safety Is Our Goal
Public Safety Contact Numbers
Queens Campus: 718-990-6281
Manhattan Campus: 212-277-5155
Staten Island Campus: 718-390-4487
Oakdale Campus: 718-374-1435
Police are warning residents about the "one-ring phone scam," which uses auto-dialers to target cell phone numbers across the country. The danger to consumers is not in receiving the call, but in calling back.
Scammers let the phone ring once and then hang up, prompting a missed call notification on phones. When an intended victim returns the call, police say they hear a message like "You've reached the operator, please hold," while being slammed by a heft per-minute charge on top of an international rate. Police say the calls come from phone numbers with three-digit area codes that look like they are from within the U.S., but are actually associated with international phone numbers.
The area codes used by scammers include 268, 284, 473, 664, 649, 767, 809, 829, 849 and 876.
To protect themselves, police advise cell phone owners to ignore a call like this should they receive one. If you're tempted to call back for whatever reason, check the number on online directories or search engines first so you can confirm where the phone is registered or see if it's listed as a scam phone number.
If you have been the victim of the scam, police say to try to resolve the charges with your cell phone carrier and, if that doesn't work, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.
University employees are receiving fraudulent e-mails indicating a change in their human resource status. The e-mail contains a link directing the employee to login to their human resources website to identify this change. The website provided appears very similar to the legitimate site in an effort to steal the employee’s credentials. Once the employee enters his/her login information, the scammer takes that information and signs into the employee’s official human resources account to change the employee’s direct deposit information. This redirects the employee’s paycheck to the bank account of another individual involved in the scam.
Consequences of this Scam
- The employee’s paycheck can be stolen.
- The money may not be returned in full to the employee.
- The scammers can take the employee’s log-in credentials and attempt to log into other accounts that belong to the employee.
Tips on how to Protect Yourself from this Scam
- Look for poor use of the English language in e-mails such as incorrect grammar, capitalization, and tenses. Many of the scammers who send these messages are not native English speakers.
- Roll your cursor over the links received via e-mail and look for inconsistencies.
- If it is not the website the e-mail claims to be directing you to then the link is to a fraudulent site.
- Never provide credentials of any sort via e-mail. This includes after clicking on links sent via e-mail. Always go to an official website rather than from a link sent to you via e-mail.
- Contact your personnel department if you receive suspicious e-mail.
If you have been a victim of this scam, you may file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.
Please reference this PSA number in your complaint. The IC3 produced a PSA in May 2014 titled “Cyber-related Scams Targeting Universities, Employees, and Students,” which mentioned the university employee payroll scam. The PSA can be viewed at www.ic3.gov/media/2014/140505.aspx.
Beware of people calling you on the phone and asking you to wire money. Anyone is a potential victim!
The target victim of this scam is called by someone claiming to be a relative who needs bail money to get out of jail. Or they may claim your family member has been kidnapped and will demand ransom be paid via a money transfer service such as Western Union.
Anyone calling and asking you for money MUST be considered suspicious.
If your receive a call asking you to wire money there is a chance you are being scammed.
Crime Prevention Tips
- Hang up the phone
- Remain calm and contact your loved one to verify their safety
- Never wire money in a panic
- Never give your personal or financial information to the caller
- CALL 9-1-1
For additional crime prevention tips or programs, contact your local Precinct's Crime Prevention Officer or visit the NYPD's Crime Prevention Section.