Dear International Student or Scholar,
I write to alert you to the fact that we have seen increased scam activity in recent days. In each case, the recipient of the message was given a detailed description of an emergency of someone the recipient knows, such as a friend or family member. The sender then asked to urgently send a fairly large amount of money to the sender. In one case, the sender claimed that she and her child were on a trip abroad and had been robbed and that they urgently needed money to return home. In another case, the sender claimed that a family member was terribly ill and that funds were very urgently needed for life-saving treatment. In each case, the e-mail from which the message seemed to come was the e-mail of a friend or relative, so it may seem legitimate. These messages can be very convincing, but they are an attempt at getting your money. In the cases we know, the friend who purportedly was abroad is alive and well at her home in Chicago, and the relative who is purportedly so very sick is in the best of health in a nearby neighborhood.
So what should you do?
If you get an alarming message about someone needing your help, please do not respond. Check the facts through other channels: Call or e-mail the person from whom the message seems to come and find out whether there really is an emergency. Also suggest to the person that a message to friends and family indicating that there is no emergency can be helpful. A family member abroad might get a scam message and not realize that it is a scam and actually send money. We have heard of at least one case at another institution where a significant amount of money was lost in this way.
I also urge you to review the information at https://itservices.uchicago.edu/page/stay-safe. The site addresses many ways in which you can protect yourself.
- And finally, send this message to others who might be concerned for you and could become the victim or a scam that claims that you are in great distress. Make sure they are prepared to recognize a scam right away.
As always, please let me know if you have questions or concerns.
With best wishes for your safety,