In late August, a University of Wisconsin graduate student contacted the Madison Police Department saying she had been duped out of $15,000 by someone who claimed to be from the MPD, according to a release.
The callers told the woman she had to pay them $15,000 immediately to avoid deportation. She then purchased $15,000 in gift cards and gave the pin numbers to the “police,” the report said.
While many think this couldn’t possibly happen to them, MPD’s Public Information Officer Joel DeSpain said these fraudulent attacks are becoming more and more common.
“We’ve seen several of these over the last couple of years. In many cases, the scammers are very convincing and keep them on the phone for hours,” DeSpain said. “A lot of times the people who are victimized are students because of their vulnerability.”
Chief Information Security Officer and Director at the UW Office of Cybersecurity Bob Turner said phishing scams are on the rise. An average of 200 phishing emails was reported each week during June and July of this year. That quantity almost doubled in August.
While many phishing e-mails attempt to coerce the victim to hand over personal information to be used to create accounts that are run up and never paid, recently there was a run of business e-mail compromise events that attempted to entice UW Staff to send wire transfers to accounts in obscure locations, Turner said.
“Scams are an easy payday for the criminal. Very little effort is required with very low risk to the scammer as fake names and addresses to send the money are easy to create,” Turner said. “The more skillful actors will try to capture e-mail accounts from university staff and create phishing e-mails that look legitimate.”
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