College students become target of fake FBI phone calls

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Students receive fake FBI calls demanding personal information. (Universe Photo)

The Better Business bureau is working to save students from losing private information to scammers who are pretending to be the FBI.

Robb Hicken, Director of Operations & Communications for the Better Business Bureau of Utah, said he has been working to spread the news to college students, who are the main targets of these phone calls.

“Calls came into us saying, ‘The FBI called me and told me they needed to talk to me about my student loans,'” Hicken said. “The main thing we want people to know is that the FBI will never call you and ask for this information. That news would come directly from financial personnel.”

Jane Driggs, the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Utah explained why she knows the calls are fake.

“Remember, the FBI does not call private citizens asking for money,” Driggs said. “Never give out your personal or financial information to callers you don’t know.”

It remains unclear what the people or person behind the scam are looking to gain through the phone calls. Some believe the scammers are looking to steal personal information, such as social security numbers or credit card numbers. Other suggestions include that scammers can break into online accounts and from their discover personal information by knowing someone’s login information, according to Hicken.

“The threat seems to be, ‘Pay now and we won’t arrest you,'” Hicken said.

The phone calls usually follow the same format. The caller advises the student of a neglected student loan or fee, overdue taxes or even unpaid parking tickets. The caller then threatens the students with arrest and suspending graduation if the fees are not immediately paid. The payment is often suggested to be made to a MoneyGram account.

Driggs said most college students seem dismissive of the fake phone calls.

“People don’t seem to believe them,” Driggs said. “We actually found out about the scam through a concerned consumer who called in to report the phone call.”

As members of the Better Business Bureau, Driggs and Hickens are used to such scams. The BBB is a non-profit organization which has over 113 locations in the United States. Their main purpose is to help save people from scams and the BBB has even developed a website that allows citizens to track ongoing scams across the nation.

“This is not a new thing,” Hicken said. “It’s a cycle kind of system. Every year it comes around one way or another.”

The BBB does believe this to be the first time where a scammer has used the FBI as its scare tactic. The FBI itself is not involved in the investigation of the scam.

Driggs said the scammers are not only targeting the Utah area, but news of the same scam has popped up all across the country.

“I think prevention is easy,” Driggs said. “Don’t give out your personal information. Just because people tell you to or ask for it doesn’t mean you should. You have to make sure you trust the source, have proof of who they are, and then verify that it is all correct.”

The BBB invited all students to follow basic procedures to protect their private information. Primarily, have all sensitive mail sent to permanent addresses and not to apartments or dorms where there is less security. Keep all important documents under lock and key. Any documents with sensitive information which are no longer needed should be shredded before being thrown away. Do not lend credit cards or debit cards to anyone. Protect computers with anti-virus and spyware software. Check credit card history for unusual spending.

The BBB website is designed to help all consumers and can also be used to check credibility of online sites before you order or purchase something.

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