WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — West Lafayette Police say scammers are targeting international students at Purdue and in the most recent case, got away with $150,000.
"Scammers are finding good ways to target vulnerable populations," said Capt. Adam Ferguson. "It just makes you sick to your stomach. We're talking thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, being sent fraudulently overseas."
Ferguson said scammers call the students, pretending to be some sort of authority and tell them they're part of an investigation and must pay up.
In April, Ferguson said a caller told a student he was with U.S. immigration.
"Our international student population is particularly vulnerable to this because they really don't understand what the laws are in the United States and how criminal investigations proceed," Ferguson said. "So when they get phone calls from someone claiming to be an authority figure or they're under investigation and they need to provide money to make sure they're being cooperative, or to pay some sort of immigration bond, it's problematic because they don't understand that's just not how it works."
And too often, Ferguson said it's too late to get the money back.
"In some cases, we can stop the payments but unfortunately a lot of people don't realize they're caught in the scam until it's too late," Ferguson said.
Alyssa Gorzelnik just graduated from Purdue. She said she has received similar calls.
"Phone numbers I don't know … they're silenced on my phone, so I don't usually think anything of it. But I have had people try to call me for like, 'hey, we need your social security number' or 'we need these documents,' and I just block them," she said.
Consumer advocates say that's a good idea and an important reminder for everyone.
"If it's not a bill that you regularly pay, don't pay money over the phone," Ferguson said. "Don't buy into these scams."
Christine Collins, director of International Student Services at Purdue, said they are always working to inform students.
"We provide students with information on scams when they arrive on campus. We also share the same information with undergraduate parents during our parent programming events," she said. "We have information on our website, share information via our newsletter, and post information on our social media."