Two international students studying at the University of South Carolina in Columbia reported that they had received threatening phone calls on Wednesday demanding money to avoid arrest, jail and deportation. The callers, who claimed to be police officers, appeared to be calling from the Columbia Police Department’s main phone number -- 803-545-3500 -- and had detailed information about the students.
The students notified Columbia Police prompting police chief Skip Holbrook to issue a public alert about the scam.
Columbia Police, the University of South Carolina and federal authorities are investigating how the scammers got detailed student information and why specific students were targeted, Holbrook said.
Police is Addison, Texas, told an investigator that a student there received a similar call appearing to come from the Columbia Police Department.
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Chief Holbrook encourages citizens with information about the scam, to call, text or submit online, their anonymous tip to Crimestoppers in any of the following ways: CALL toll-free, 888-CRIME-SC. T EXT to CRIMES (274637), and mark the beginning of the message with "TIPSC, ” followed by the tip information. or LOG onto: www.midlandscrimestoppers.com, and click on the red " Submit a tip” tab.
Columbia police urged people to follow these safety tips to avoid being taken by scam artists:
*If someone you don’t know asks for money over the phone, do NOT comply.
* If the caller identifies themselves as law enforcement, get a phone number to call back and verify the intention/information
* If the call back number is fake and part of a scam, call local police immediately
* Do not engage in a lengthy conversation with the caller
* If the calls continue, keep a detailed log of the times, topic and demands, then provide police with the information. This will aid in the investigation.