The USC Department of Public Safety (DPS) has received reports from USC student’s parents who are being contacted by impostors posing as USC DPS law enforcement officials claiming their child is in custody and the child’s need to enroll in a rehabilitation program. USC DPS is not making these contacts and the impostors or “scammers” are using caller ID spoofing to prank or scam the parents of USC students. If you or anyone you know receives these contacts, please call USC DPS at (213) 740-6000.
TIPS TO AVOID SCAMS
1. Phone Calls and Emails
Never provide personal information or money to anyone who has contacted you by phone, email or social media claiming you have violated your immigration status or owe taxes and must wire money or buy gift cards in order to straighten out your immigration status. In many cases, callers will use a technique to mask their true caller ID with another government listed phone number or number of a private institution like a bank. If you are unsure about who is calling, tell the individual that you are busy and write down the caller’s name and phone number. If the caller refuses, hang up. Government agencies do not request payment over the phone.
2. Social Media Romance Extortions
Scammers use online social media and chat platforms to contact students. They deceive students into believing they are entering into a consensual online sexual encounter and secretly record them. They then threaten to make the video public unless the student sends the individual a substantial sum of money via Western Union, MoneyGram, Venmo, Zelle and other digital payments networks. This is a crime known as extortion. These scams can be avoided by not responding to friend requests from strangers. In addition, never send strangers money or share your credit card information.
3. In-Person Encounters
Avoid making cash transactions with strangers. Most scams occur when a stranger approaches you with either a sad story or a business offer. These individuals try to get money from you in exchange for something that may not be true. Some scammers will ask for payment in the form of wire transfers or gift cards. If you do not know the person requesting a cash transaction, DPS recommends that you ask the person to meet with you at the DPS station or station of your local law enforcement agency to make the transaction.
If you are contacted by a scammer, do not reveal any personal information. Ask for the individual’s contact information and report the incident immediately to DPS and/or your local law enforcement agency.
4. Tax Scams
Scammers also try to get you to give them money by calling and saying they are with the IRS. An increasing number of phone scams have occurred in which people will call and threaten you with police arrest and/or deportation if you do not pay them.
It is important to know, even if you do owe taxes:
The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment over the phone.
The IRS will never threaten or intimidate you, demand payment with a prepaid debit card or ask for your credit card or debit card number over the phone.
The IRS will never threaten to call the police or immigration agents if you do not pay.
If you or a fellow student receive a call like this, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration online, or by calling (800) 366-4484. Also, report it online to the Federal Trade Commission.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE BEEN DECEIVED
If you believe that you are a victim of theft because you have been tricked or deceived, please notify DPS at:
University Park Campus (213) 740-6000
Health Sciences Campus (323) 442-1200
If you are in immediate danger, call the LAPD at 911 or DPS at (213) 740-4321 for UPC or (323) 442-1000 for HSC.
If you have any questions regarding this advisory, please contact the DPS Community Relations Office at (213) 821-6690.
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.)
RESOURCES AT USC
There are two locations:
Engemann Student Health Center – UPC
1031 West 34th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3261
Eric Cohen Student Health Center – HSC
1510 San Pablo St., Suite 104
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Phone: (323) 442-5631
Fax: (323) 442-6029
Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services (RSVP)
(Formerly known as Center for Women and Men)
Sexual Assault & Survivor Support | USC Student Health
Campus Wellbeing and Crisis Intervention
To request other support resources and accommodations, please contact Associate Vice Provost Lynette Merriman
Campus Wellbeing and Crisis Intervention (usc.edu)
Office of Religious and Spiritual Life
Office of Religious and Spiritual Life | Fostering a vibrant community of spiritual reflection and free inquiry | USC
If you observe or experience discrimination, harassment, or retaliation related to a protected characteristic, contact USC’s Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX (EEO-TIX) for help:
(213) 740-5086 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.)
1025 W. 34th Street, Suite #101
Los Angeles, CA 90089
USC Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX – USC HR, Equity, and Compliance
If you are experiencing a university-related concern, conflict, or challenging situation, contact the Office of the Ombuds at either UPC or HSC.
UPC Ombuds Office
University Park Campus in room 203A of the URC (University Religious Center)
835 W. 34th Street
HSC Ombuds Office
Health Sciences Campus on the B-Level of SRH (Seaver Hall)
1969 Zonal Avenue
If you have any questions regarding this Crime Alert, please contact the on-duty Watch Commander in DPS at (213) 740-6000.
Published on November 19th, 2023
Last updated on November 19th, 2023