Scams and Safety

Scams are deceptive schemes or tricks used by individuals to access other people’s personal information (bank account, Social Security Numbers, etc.) Scams often create a sense of urgency, or invoke strong emotions, to trick people to act quickly. Scams can occur in a variety of different ways:

Here is some additional information and resources on telephone scams.  If you ever have questions about a phone call, please do not hesitate to contact the Pitt Police.  The police are here to be ensure that everyone in our community is safe from criminals – these scams are a crime.

How the Scams Works

  • The caller identifies him/herself as an official from some US government entity (e.g. IRS, FBI, USCIS) or a foreign government entity.  The phone number may even appear to come from one of these agencies.
  • The caller has detailed information about the person and/or his or her family.
  • The caller makes threats (police, jail, deportation, etc.) about what will happen if the person doesn’t comply with demands.
  • The caller demands money be sent via wire transfer, or tells the person to purchase gift cards and relay numbers over the phone.
  • These scams are taking place across the United States and target different populations.

News and Resources about Scams

Examples at Universities

  • A student received a call from someone claiming to be from the Chinese consulate demanding the transfer of more than $50,000 or she and her family would be committing a crime.
  • A student received an email from someone claiming to be from the University of Pittsburgh about applying for a research assistant position. After a conversation via text message, the student was asked to provide her bank account information. The student notified Pitt Police and OIS.
  • A scholar received a call from someone claiming to be with Immigration and Customs Enforcement demanding $5,000 in Google Pay gift cards or the scholar would be deported.
  • A Chinese student received a call from someone claiming to be from the shipping company DHL saying that the student had a package confiscated by the police with fake passports and other documents.  The student was then transferred to someone claiming to be the police who asked for personal information including their Chinese ID# and then asked who their closest family member is in China.  Then the family member received a call from the person pretending to be the police.  The fake police used the student’s personal information to convince the family member that the student was in a serious emergency (car accident, kidnapping, etc.) and they were asked to pay significant amounts of money to help the student.
  • A student received a call from someone claiming to be the police stating that she omitted important information on a government form and the police would help her avoid arrest for $4,000 that would be refunded in a few weeks.  The caller provided a name, badge number, and phone number.  The student was repeatedly told not to contact anyone about this call.

Video Clips

Quick Tips

  • Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number; let the caller leave a message.  Scammers won’t leave you a voicemail. 
  • If you do take the call and it seems suspicious, hang up to end the call. Then block the number in your phone.
  • The U.S. government will NEVER

    • Demand immediate transfer of money from your bank account
    • Demand you to send them gift cards.
  • REPORT calls to Pitt Police and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission
  • Keep OIS informed if you receive a call.


Please contact OIS if you have any questions now or in the future.