Chinese consulate phone scam hits UCR

Scammers claiming to be from the Chinese Consulate targeted UCR faculty and staff with phone calls during during the week of Oct. 1. This situation was originally publicized through a schoolwide email sent by John Virden, Chief Information Security Officer of Information Technology Solutions (ITS). “The message suggests a critical parcel is available at the consulate that can affect a person’s ability to remain in the United States,” according to the email sent by Virden.

In an interview with the Highlander, Virden revealed some of the specifics of the scam. According to reports, a victim would first receive a call from an unknown number and, if answered, a scammer would relay the following message, “This is the consulate; we have an important document that needs to be picked up; it may affect your status in the U.S.; press a button to speak with a specialist.” If a target of the scam happened to press the button to proceed, they were connected to another scammer describing a situation of a parcel associated with a police investigation of money laundering. The victim would eventually be connected to a fraudulent law enforcement officer claiming that said victim would have to transfer a sum of money to a bank in Hong Kong in order to have the money laundering charges dropped. The exact amount of money required is unknown.

When asked about the whereabouts of these callers Virden stated, “Sadly, because of the spoofing of phone numbers, the identities and exact locations are currently unknown. However, there are ongoing investigations.” The term “spoofing” describes the method of deceptively changing the shown location of a call to mask the true location of the call’s origin. While the location isn’t known, according to Virden, it is “highly likely” that the calls originate from China due to the request of the scammers to transfer money to a bank in Hong Kong.

One anonymous student claims that his roommate received one of these calls. Realizing the call was a scam, the roommate set his phone on speaker so that he and his roommates could be entertained by the call. This is not recommended by ITS.

These calls are not limited to the UCR campus, as a large series of scam calls have occurred throughout the US, United Kingdom and Australia. Virden urges students and faculty alike to immediately hang up if the scam call is received. If a scam finds its way to a student through email, the email should be deleted. If students or faculty have any further questions, or if they would like to report a scam phone call, they’re urged to contact ITS at (951) 827-IT4U (4848) or BearHelp@ucr.edu. If a student or faculty member happens to comply with the scam, they are urged to contact UCPD at (951) 827-5222.

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