Online Scams

Confidence scams & theft by deception


by John J. Karshner, HCUPD Chief of Police and Jason Colon, HCUPD Corporal

The HCU Police Department would like to advise the HCU community of some online financial frauds, also known as “scams,” being perpetrated against our students, and students at other institutions as well. These scams are commonly known as theft by deception where the con man (because he wins your trust and confidence to deceive you) thief holds out a plan to make you easy money- but it’s a trick. There are several types and variations of these scams now being employed, and the following are presently some of the most common that we are seeing:

 “You’re hired!”

You are contacted (or you contact an advertisement regarding an alleged job offer) regarding a money-making opportunity. The confidence man (con man) thief, in the guise of a legitimate company, asks that you provide (via email or text message) personal information like your name, your social security number, phone number, and address. The con man thief then mails a check to you and directs you to deposit the check into your personal account.

You are then told to get a money order check for a portion of their check’s proceeds and mail it to an account overseas (usually Jamaica, Mexico or Canada). For your trouble and service, you are directed to a keep a portion of the funds, sometimes a thousand dollars or more. Your money, in bank check form, is forwarded to the con man; shortly thereafter the bank notifies you that the con man’s check is a fraud and will not be honored by the bank. Your bank check, however, is good and the con man gets your money.

“Just send me a gift card!”

In a twist to the above scam, the con man thief states that the check was sent to you and your deposit of it was in error and he requests a portion of the money be withdrawn, leaving a small amount to you for your trouble. The con man thief then requests that the cash be deposited into another account, or he may have you utilize a Money Gram, iTunes cards or other gift cards to cover the amount of money he is seeking you to return.

The money will initially show up in your bank account as a “pending transaction.” However, once the bank bounces the check as a fraud, the transaction is reversed and you are out the amount you withdrew and forwarded to the con man thief.

“With your online banking info, it’s so much easier!”

Sometimes the con man thief may request your personal bank account information so that the check or monies can be deposited directly into your bank account: this trick is particularly used by con men thieves promising high paying jobs to college students. Once you give them your bank account number, and a pin or identifier, they can drain your account and make it look like you have authorized it. You lose your money.

Some Valuable Tips

Here are some tips that you can use to protect yourself from con men thieves and scammers:

  • NEVER give your personal banking information to anyone.
  • IGNORE OR DELETE IT if you see a communication to you that promises easy money, and they want to send you a check to cash or deposit into your account, or want you to send a check anywhere- particularly outside of the continental United States.
  • IGNORE OR DELETE IT if you see a communication regarding easy money or a job and they use poor grammar. Con men thieves often can’t hide their poor use of the English language, and they count on you to overlook it.
  • IGNORE OR DELETE IT if someone asks for payment, for any reason, in the form of a MoneyGram, iTunes cards or other gift cards.
  • IGNORE OR DELETE IT if the communication is from overseas, another country, and/or purports to be from a prince, a king, or any royalty- particularly one in exile.

In most of these situations, applying this old adage will protect you:

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

If you have any questions regarding the legitimacy of any financial or job communication or think you may be a target of theft by deception or con men thieves,  please feel free to contact the Houston Christian University Police Department at 281.649.3314 and ask to speak to an officer. We will be glad to assist you.