As the holiday season approaches, the Cornell University Police Department is warning students to watch for scams aiming to deceitfully solicit students’ money. CUPD’s message follows a Nov. 24 FBI warning regarding online scams.
Scams may include phishing — sending “unsolicited e-mails, many of which ask for assistance converting checks to cash or transferring money from abroad” and posting false advertisements for villas and apartments in destinations such as the Caribbean or Europe, according to CUPD. The supposed “landlords” cheat victims by requesting they wire transfer money to an overseas account, from which it can be taken by the thieves.
Though there are “very, very few reports” of scams among Cornell students each year, CUPD Chief Kathy Zoner said that people are particularly vulnerable to being conned during the holiday season. A 2009 report from the FBI found that there were 336,655 Internet crime complaints that year, which resulted in $559.7 million worth of loss. Peak sales periods — such as “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday,” the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving, respectively — present ample opportunities for scammers to manipulate shoppers.
“A lot of money flows through the economy [during the holidays],” Zoner said. “People are in a buying mood, so they’re much less conscious of how many clicks it takes to get them somewhere.”
“If a deal looks like it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” she added.
CUPD Deputy Chief David Honan said he “would urge students to be cautious when shopping online and be [suspicious] of unsolicited e-mails, which may be phishing, or bogus charity scams.”
If a student is scammed, Zoner said the student should first report the incident to local law enforcement officials.
“We can assist with any further follow-ups and look for the people who perpetrated [the scam], but our work is mostly preventative,” Zoner said. “The recovery of money generally comes from the holding agent of the information, such as the federal government or a private enterprise company.”