A Winthrop University student told Rock Hill police on Tuesday that he paid $1,500 in Walmart gift cards to a person he thought was a representative with the Dell Computer Company, according to a police report.
It was a scam.
It was the first scam of its type that Winthrop Police Chief Kenneth Scoggins said he is aware of.
"So far this type of scam is not prevalent on campus," Scoggins said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
Scoggins said students sometimes receive scam e-mails from a person claiming to be a Winthrop employee, alerting them to fees they owe. He said students often alert Campus Police, allowing officers to inform the entire Winthrop community.
"Most students are really bright and pick up on this stuff ahead of time," Scoggins said.
Scammers target people of all ages, races and culture, said Det. Keith Dugan with the Rock Hill Police Department.
“When they call, they don’t know if you’re white or black, you’re male or female, your age…they just attack because you give them the necessary tools,” he said. “You answered a number that is unknown.”
Scammers are getting more tech savvy in how they target unsuspecting residents, Dugan said. He said there are apps for phones that allow the caller to mask their number.
“We see an array of different types of online frauds; some are done via phone as well,” Dugan said.
Dugan said many fraud schemes come from outside the country, but some originate in the United States.
He said some warning signs are: unknown phone numbers; foreign accents and a fast-talking approach meant to make the victim feel under pressure to take action or face a consequence.
“Their whole thing is a time-sensitive fear factor,” Dugan said. “If anyone needs a payment that fast, I would say that just doesn’t look right.”
The Winthrop student told police he received a phone call from someone claiming to work for Dell. The student said the person offered him anti-hacking software called SonicWALL TZ600, which is a legitimate product, the report states.
The student told police the suspect paired his computer to the student’s to control the screen. The student said he knew this to be a common practice by the Dell Company, the report states.
The suspect told the student there were multiple places he could be hacked and offered the anti-hacking software, according the report. The suspect told the student that due to the threat of hacking, the student should pay for the product in Walmart gift cards.
Dugan said scammers will usually prompt the person to provide some type of gift card for payment.
The student paid the suspect $1,500 in gift cards between Monday and Tuesday, the report states. The student became suspicious when the suspect told him it would cost another $500 for the technician to come to his residence to install the software and that he would not be able to hand the gift cards to the technician but had to read them to the suspect over the phone.
The case remains under investigation.
Dugan said Rock Hill police see multiple scams that come back around each year, such as IRS scams and ‘grandparent scams,’ where a person calls pretending to be a relative in distress. Dugan said the IRS will never contact a person by phone.
He said police also have aseen computer virus scams such as the case with the Winthrop student.
“These people that do this spend the majority of their day thinking about how to scam people,” Dugan said. “These people live and breathe evil and they don’t necessarily know who they are attacking.”
People should be wary of phone calls from unknown numbers and do research on the phone number and company the person says they are calling from, Dugan said. A Google search of the phone number can reveal if there have been complaints against that number.
Dugan also recommends letting unknown numbers go to voicemail, then take time to do research before responding.
“People just don’t spend that time, they just get so anxious and … they just comply,” he said. “We are in this type of generation where everyone has to know right now; they have to have that information instantly. This is what’s causing a lot of our problems right now.”