A student living in North Morlan Hall received a call between April 10 and 11 from someone claiming to be a representative from an unnamed Chinese government agency, threatening consequences unless the student wired money, said Dean of Students Jerry Price.
The student, who university administrators would not identify, complied with the request.
There are about one to two fraudulent phone calls per year that are directed toward members of the Chapman community, although there could be more that go unreported, Price said.
“My understanding is that someone contacted the student, portrayed themselves to be from some agency of a foreign government,” Price said. “(They delivered an) urgent message that (the student) owed ‘x’ amount of money and that there were going to be serious consequences if they didn’t wire the money.”
This type of scam is most commonly targeted toward U.S. students studying abroad, Price said. In this case, money was wired to a subject in China, but the exact origin of the call – due to IP address masking software and computers with falsely registered IP addresses – is unknown.
After learning about the incident, Public Safety sought assistance from the Orange Police Department to investigate, although the department hasn’t issued any warrant or made an arrest.
Randy Burba, the chief of Public Safety, said that these types of calls happen less than once a year.
“I’ve been at Chapman for 12 years. This kind of thing has only happened maybe three, four times that I can recall. It’s not very common (that the scam is successful),” Burba said.
Western Union, a credit union that doesn’t trace transactions between parties, has admitting to aiding in transfer scams, agreeing to return $586 million to customers who haven’t been “adequately protected from fraud,” according to the Federal Trade Commission. A customer service representative from Western Union declined to comment on wiring fraud.
Jess Quimpo, a junior kinesiology major, said she would go to the police if she received a similar call.
“Of course, I would freak out a bit, but it’s best to just take it to the authorities or the bank so they could help at least get me through it,” she said.
Fraudulent calls are not commonly targeted to Chapman students, Burba said. But scam calls are prominent in the U.S., with the IRS putting out public alerts.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers might seem friendly, call you by your first name, make small talk or claim to work for a trusted company.
Asking for personal information, like credit card information or Social Security numbers, can also be a red flag.
Price said the university is trying to prevent this type of crime by spreading the word about it. Chapman students and their families should sign up for the Orange iWatch, Burba said, a free, subscription-based service where subscribers can stay up to date on crimes in the surrounding area through email notifications.
There will most likely be a crime prevention fair in the fall semester, Burba said, with this incident being one of the points of discussion.