AMES, Iowa -- The Ames Police Department is warning Iowa State University students about scams that are targeting them as they return to campus this week.
About 36,000 students are expected on campus this fall, and most students moved in this week. Police are warning ISU students about a way that scammers are trying to steal their money without leaving a trace.
Commander Jason Tuttle tells Channel 13 News, “This week we’ve had several, multiple reports of people claiming the FBI was calling them, and demanding payment for some type of tuition or taxes that they haven’t paid, and the scammers are then requesting them to make payment via a pre-paid credit card or like a green dot card, and so we’re telling people that generally most government agencies are not going to call you and demand immediate payment via credit card or green dot card or whatever it may be. They’re generally going to send you a letter, if in fact that is even a legitimate thing that they’re calling you about. The thing that’s interesting this week with several of the calls have been, we believe they’re spoofing the FBI field office out of Des Moines, and so when people are googling that phone number, it’s coming back to the FBI and then that’s when they’re calling us, asking if it’s a valid phone call or not."
Commander Tuttle says people are catching on to this scam and they’re not paying any money this time around, although he has seen people fall victim to this kind of a scam in the past, telling Channel 13 News, "We’ve seen people give anywhere from you know several hundred dollars up to thousands and thousands of dollars that they’ve put on some type of a credit card and then sent that payment via through the telephone or through the internet.”
Commander Tuttle went on to tell Channel 13 News, "the other thing to that we’re seeing is they will often target international students who maybe have limited English speaking capacities, and so they try and prey upon them because sometimes they believe they’re easy victims." Tuttle wants to get the word out to ISU students and warn them about the scammers, telling Channel 13 News about their schemes saying, "These scammers are really good at what they do. They’re very demanding and they try to prey upon people’s emotions by telling them that they’re going to be arrested by the local police or that they’re gonna come find them and get their money out of them. If you get a phone call like this, don’t provide any information over the phone, don’t’ verify any of your information. Feel free to call us so we can log this. You can also provide this information to the Federal Trade Commission."
Channel 13 News went to the ISU campus to talk with students on Thursday and get their reaction to the scam. Freshman Katie Canfield told Channel 13 News, “I think I would probably be like a little suspicious at first because I had never like heard of them doing that before so I’d probably like ask someone. I could see how people could fall victim to it super easily because they wouldn’t know any better.” Canfield went on to call the scam weird and very scary, adding , “I mean like you just wanna like, when you first get here you just want to have fun, and like meet new people because you’re kind of alone and so like it’s your first time being independent, especially if you’re a freshman or and a new student or anything, and so the last thing you want is for someone to call you, saying that they’re gonna turn you into the FBI and then basically like just steal your money.”
Freshman Jamison Roozeboom told Channel 13 News, “I mean I would, I think I would almost fall for it because I just had to go talk to somebody about, because my bill didn’t go in, and I had to go talk to somebody about, they didn’t accept something and I’d be a little freaked out and I probably would want that to get it done soon, so I don’t get any late fees charged to my bill or anything like that.”
The Ames Police Department is asking that everyone share the warning and spread the word about these scams.