Be Smart, Stay Safe: Workshops help protect international students from scams
“We promise, we never arrest anyone over the phone.”
“You never, ever have to ‘act now or face arrest’.”
“If a transaction looks suspicious, check with your family or the police first.”
If you own a cellphone, you’ve probably answered a call from a stern voice announcing that you’re in trouble with the police or the Canada Revenue Agency, warning that you need to address the problem immediately or face dire consequences. Oh, and please key in your date of birth, Social Insurance Number or banking information.
Many people know that this kind of call, while it may sound and look legitimate, is a scam.
And many don’t.
They play voice recordings of some of the calls students might receive, saying a friend’s bank account has been locked and they need money, or pretending to be from a government agency that will send police to the door if they don’t immediately key in their personal information or send money.
The police show the students examples of email scams. They warn them about people who go door to door, who try to come into your house to talk about a new water heater or a new roof. They talk about virtual kidnapping.
Campus security explains all the programs we have to keep students safe on campus, like SWHAT (Student Walk Home Attendant Team), McMaster’s Emergency First Response Team, the red emergency boxes around campus, and the McMaster safety app. They also tell them who to talk to if they feel unsafe or need support.
And Crime Stoppers offers them a safe, anonymous way to report suspicious activities without fear of reprisal.
Why it matters
Our students are here for a good experience and to learn. It’s so important to protect them, and to help them protect themselves. We’ve heard from a lot of students that they found this workshop so useful, because they’ve fielded calls like this and now they know how to respond. Unfortunately, scammers often target international students and take advantage of them.
The workshop is also a safe space to talk to police and security — in some countries, there’s a genuine fear of the police. So much so that people aren’t comfortable reporting suspected fraud in case they are genuinely in trouble and this will lead to them getting arrested. The workshops allow students to see that you don’t have to be afraid of people in uniform — you can trust them to support you and protect you.