The USC Department of Public Safety (DPS) wants to make the campus community aware of a telephone scam in which an individual posing as a USC security officer attempts to collect or extort money from USC parents.
The scam involves late night phone calls to USC parents claiming that their student has been incarcerated and that bail money must be posted through Zelle, Apple Pay, Venmo, or another similar funding method. In an attempt to add credibility to the scheme, a phone call to the number left by the individual goes to a voicemail greeting claiming to be a campus security official. These calls are fraudulent.
We also want the campus community to be aware of a national trend – scammers using a clone of their student’s voice to ask for money. The Federal Trade Commission issued a consumer alert last month urging people to be alert to calls using voice clones generated by artificial intelligence.
We encourage members of the campus community to be vigilant for potential phone scams against themselves and their family members, which may include the following warning signs:
· Being told you have won a prize or sweepstakes, and need to take steps to receive it, such as sending money for taxes and insurance before receiving the prize.
· Being asked to provide or to confirm your Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers – or other personal or financial information.
· Use of scare tactics, such as claiming your loved one is in danger, or that you may be arrested if you do not take immediate action.
· Asking you to pay using money transfers, cryptocurrency or gift cards.
· Pressure to act immediately.
· Promises to recover money you have lost in other scams, for a fee.
· Demanding that taxes be paid without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
Those who receive these calls are encouraged to report them to DPS at (213) 740-6000 or the Los Angeles Police Department at (877) 275-5273. Fraud also can be reported to the FBI for law enforcement action at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/report-fraud. In addition, please be cautious about providing any personal information (names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers) to anyone who calls or emails you because it could result in identity theft.
Here are some additional tips to ensure your security and safety:
· Never trust the caller ID number; the displayed telephone number can be manipulated with software.
· Always consider sending unsolicited phone calls to voicemail. Many scam call centers will not leave a message.
· Never click on links contained in unsolicited emails or text messages. The links may route you to fake websites or deploy malicious software.
· Protect your personal and financial information. Never provide this information in response to unsolicited text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be a government agency.
If you are in immediate DANGER, call the Los Angeles Police Department at 911 or the USC Department of Public Safety at (213) 740-4321.
Please note that race, ethnicity, gender and/or religious affiliation are NOT considered the basis for suspicion; only behaviors are considered suspicious.
If you have information relevant to the crime(s) reflected in this alert, immediately call DPS at (213) 740-6000 for the University Park Campus (UPC), (323) 442-1000 for the Health Sciences Campus (HSC) or (213) 485-6571 for the LAPD Southwest Division.
The purpose of this warning is to aid in the prevention of similar crimes by alerting the community about the incident and to provide information which allows individuals to make informed decisions about their personal safety.
USC Department of Public Safety Recommendations
- If you feel you may be in danger, immediately go to a safe location and report the crime to law enforcement. Call DPS emergency for UPC at (213) 740-4321, for HSC call (323) 442-1000, or call 911 for LAPD.
- If you observe a crime in progress, STAY CALM AND CALL DPS emergency for UPC at (213) 740-4321, for HSC call (323) 442-1000, or call 911 for LAPD. Do not attempt to apprehend any suspects or perpetrators of crime. Your personal safety and the safety of others around you should be your primary concern.
- Not every person you meet has good intentions. Be cautious of strangers and keep a safe distance. There is safety in numbers, so travel with friends.
- Avoid using cell phones or other technology while walking as criminals target distracted, inattentive individuals using them.
- Be a good witness : It is important to recall what you observed and provide as many details as possible to law enforcement such as: the sex, race, age, height, hair color, clothing, tattoos, scars of any suspects and a description of the make and model of any vehicle used in the crime and its license plate if possible.
- Do not attempt to apprehend any suspects or perpetrators of crime.
Other options to contact DPS, to report crime, ask for help and to receive information:
- Blue light emergency phones are located throughout UPC and HSC. The phones are connected to the USC DPS’ 24-hour communications center and identify the phone location if the caller is unable to speak. The phones can be used to request help, an escort, report suspicious activity and to report crimes. For more information visit: Emergency Blue Light Phones | Department of Public Safety | USC.
- Security Ambassadors : In addition to DPS officers who patrol a 2.5 mile radius around USC’s campuses, USC contracts with “Security Ambassadors” to patrol street corners in nearby neighborhoods and to observe and report crime and suspicious activity. This security force wears bright yellow jackets so you can easily spot them. If you need assistance, look for a Security Ambassador.
- Get a Ride: Lyft is now available at HSC and UPC to cover shared rides. Lyft at UPC is open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week. Lyft at HSC is open from 5 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday only. Please visit the USC Lyft page for more information: https://transnet.usc.edu/index.php/campus-cruiser-program/how-to-use-lyft/
- Verify your driver and car: Once you have requested a Lyft ride, you can view the driver’s rating. When your ride arrives, make sure the driver’s photo, license plate number and vehicle description match. Never take a ride you did not request or get into a car that doesn’t match the details provided by the Lyft app.
- Go the extra mile: The Lyft app’s “share your ETA” function allows you to invite friends to see your trip in real-time. The app will draft a text message you can share with friends that includes your ETA and a link to a live map that allows them to track your trip. Too much effort? Call a friend and stay on the line while you’re in the car instead.
- LiveSafe APP: To quickly make emergency push button calls to DPS or 911 on your mobile phone, download the Trojan Mobile Safety APP “LIVESAFE” from Google Play or the Apple iTunes Store. For more information regarding LIVESAFE visit https://dps.usc.edu/services/safety-app/.
- TrojansAlert: Register for USC’s emergency notification system TrojansAlert t o allow university officials to contact you during an emergency by sending messages via text message and email. For more information visit: http://dps.usc.edu/services/trojans-alerts/. (Please note that students, staff and faculty automatically are signed up for TrojansAlerts.)