Imagine, you meet someone on social media or through a dating app. What seemed to be the start of a genuine connection has quickly become a nightmare that you can’t seem to escape. You have shared an explicit photo or video of yourself with someone you trusted. Now they are threatening to use those images against you by posting them online or sharing with your friends and family unless you give in to their demands and send them money. This is one of many forms of sextortion that has been increasing in frequency and has impacted members of our community.
In addition to sextortion cases, the Division of Public Safety and Security is also investigating scams impacting our international student community.
Imagine, a moment of intense fear and panic at the thought of being deported just weeks into a new semester on campus. You’ve received a robocall with a pre-recorded message spoken in your native language telling you there is a problem with your VISA. You then get connected to a live person also speaking your native language claiming to be an “official” call from your home country. They tell you someone will be in touch soon regarding the “issue” surrounding your VISA. You anxiously wait. You finally receive a call from a number that can be traced to the government in your home country by conducting a simple Google search. You have no reason to believe these people aren’t who they say they are so you do not question it when they request photos of your passport, your identification card, and access to your web camera. You comply immediately. You do not question it when you’re told to avoid deportation, you must send over money to the “government” via wire transfer. This is phishing and extortion and our University of Michigan international students have been targeted.
In 2020, there were 50,176 reports of fraud across the globe, equaling total losses amounting to $154.8 million (Source: eConsumer.gov).
Our highly educated community is not immune to these scams. In fact, scammers have become increasingly more cunning in their approach. They may get in touch by phone, email, postal mail, text, or social media. Scammers pad their credibility by way of phone number masking and providing a website as an additional resource that appears to be legitimate. They know how to gain an unsuspecting target’s trust. It’s vital that you be aware of these steps in the event you may become a target yourself.
How to protect yourself:
- NEVER send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are or who they say they are.
- DO NOT open attachments from people you do not know. Links can secretly hack your electric devices using malware to gain access to your private data, photos, and contacts, or control your web camera and microphone without your knowledge.
- Turn off your electronic devices and web cameras when not in use.
- DON’T trust someone who claims to be a government official or law enforcement officer; they will never demand payment or confidential information.
- DON’T give any personal or confidential information over the phone or by email.
What to do if you fall victim to internet crime:
- DON’T PANIC, contact the University of Michigan Police immediately, even if you’ve already paid money. If you are not on campus, contact your local police agency.
- Stop further communication with the criminals immediately.
- Take screenshots of all correspondence as backup. DON’T pay anything and DO NOT DELETE ANY CORRESPONDENCE.
- Suspend your social media accounts and use the online reporting process associated with compromised accounts.
- File a complaint with the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov
Remember, you are not alone as thousands are victimized by these scams each year. Do not be embarrassed or afraid to contact law enforcement if it happens to you.
Follow the links below for additional information on sextortion and financial crime.