UTPD warns against financial phone scam

Catherine Marfin

UTPD sent out an email to students and parents yesterday warning students against a financial phone scam.

UTPD reports the caller clones the Office of Financial Aid or other law enforcement telephone numbers and calls the student or parent using this cloned number. The caller then tells the student or parent that they owe money due to unpaid taxes, failure to complete necessary paperwork or tuition fees. 

UTPD reports the caller then tells the parent or student that an arrest will be warranted if they fail to make a payment, prompting the student or parent to go to purchase a pre-paid credit card, money order or money gram. After the transaction is complete, the caller demands the student or parent provide the information over the telephone, which allows the caller to electronically claim the money. 

“This type of crime is hard to investigate,” UTPD crime specialist William Pieper said. “We have reached out to local businesses that sell pre-paid credit cards and MoneyGrams so store clerks can look out for students who look to be in distress why talking on the phone and making pre-paid credit cards or money orders.”

UTPD has had reports of the caller having an accent in some incidences and no discernable accents in others, Pieper said. The caller is able to convince students and parents the call is legitimate by using information obtained from the online university directory, UTPD reports. 

UTPD advised students and parents in an email to ask the caller for their name, agency name, badge number, callback number and case number —  but if the caller doesn’t disconnect the call, hang up immediately. If the caller gives an agency name and any other information, UTPD recommends hanging up the phone and contacting the agency in a separate phone call. 

“A focus on prevention is key to stopping this type of crime,” Pieper said. “The UT Police Department has worked diligently to get the message out about this type of scam.  We have highlighted the crime in the Campus Watch newsletter, posted the alert on our social media sites, sent out mass e-mails to students and conducted media interviews on the issue.”

Students and parents can restrict their contact information from being obtained by the online directory here.  UTPD “highly recommends” that students and parents restrict their contact information as soon as possible. 

UTPD stresses UT Financial Aid will never contact students or parents over the phone and demand immediate payment or personal account information.