Information from Johns Hopkins Security on recent scams

In light of three recent scams targeting university employees and students, Johns Hopkins Security today provided the following information describing the scams—kidnapping, DEA, and IRS—and how targeted individuals should respond.

Kidnapping scam

The scam: An individual or individuals, through various open sources, compiles information about an employee and his or her family. They then call the employee at either a work or a personal telephone number, claiming to have kidnapped a family member—typically a child. During the call, someone may be heard in the background calling for help; the caller will claim that it is the kidnapped family member.

What you should know: At a moment of anxiety and stress, many recipients of such a call may believe the background voice sounded just like the allegedly kidnapped family member. Should you receive such a call, remain on the line if possible and use another phone line to call Johns Hopkins Security or your local police department. If you must hang up to call security or the police, do so immediately. Do not agree to meet or wire money and do not agree to any other demands. Wait for the arrival of the security team or police and provide them with as much information as possible.

DEA scam

The scam: An individual claiming to be from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration attempts to persuade drug prescribers to provide personal information and/or a DEA registration number over the phone or by email.

What you should know: Government officials will not call or email requesting any type of personal information. Should you receive such a call or email, do not respond. Contact your campus security office and provide details.

IRS scam

The scam: An individual claiming to be from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service calls and claims that an employee owes back taxes. You are also told that if you fail to respond by a certain time, you will be arrested and that if you are in the United States on a visa you will be deported. The caller typically asks for a wire transfer or pre-paid debt card to pay the alleged back taxes.

What you should know: U.S. government agencies do not make phone calls or send email to inform people they are delinquent, they will not threaten people with imprisonment or deportation, and they do not accept wire transfers or pre-paid debt cards as a way of payment for any legitimate debt one may owe the government.

These are just a small sample of the many fraud schemes that criminals use to collect money from unsuspecting individuals. Please be cautious when dealing with unsolicited emails, messages, and phone calls. If you are not sure about the authenticity of a contact you have received, do not respond; instead immediately contact your campus security office.

When reporting such an issue, it is helpful to provide as much information as you can, such as:

  • An incoming phone number
  • The nature of the call, including specific requests or demands
  • Any potentially identifying characteristics of the caller
  • An original email or social media post, if the communication was received through one of those channels
  • Information on the email address or social media account from which such a communication was received
  • The content and originating number of a text message, if the communication was received by text

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact your campus security office.

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