Phone scam hits Colorado State University, targets international students

Skyler Leonard

A phone scam making its way around campus has already cost some students over $1,000, according to an email sent by IT Security Manager Steve Lovaas to campus.

The scam entails a person impersonating a government official telling the caller that he or she is in risk of either be arrested or being deported at which point they will tell the person to purchase a prepaid gift or phone card and then relate the card number over the phone, according to Lovaas.


So far, the scam has been directed towards international students, but Lovaas said the general population should be aware of the scam.

According to Lovaas, those who have believed the scam were in part persuaded because the scammers mentioned a great deal of information such as a students home address, major and even CSUID – most of which is accessible through the CSU directory.

According to Lovaas, if you receive a phone call and believe it may be a scam, hang up and contact the CSU police department right away.

On Friday, Sarah Robb, an international student from England, received a phone call from a women who claimed to be with the Internal Revenue Service.

The woman said Robb had evaded her taxes and that there was a warrant out for her arrest. After answering a few questions, Robb was transfered on the phone to a male with a heavy accent.

“He had my full name, which some of my closest friends don’t even know,” Robb said.

The man told Robb that she was going to be in a lot of trouble and that she needed to go to the closest CVS pharmacy, a 7/ll or Home Depot to receive a “tax bondage form.”

Robb said she has limited knowledge about U.S. tax system, so on her way to the closest 7/11 Robb put the man on hold and called her roommate asking her to call her father.

At this point, Robb was assured by her roommate that this was a scam, but she was still interested in how far it would go so she played along.

When she got to the gas station the man told her that she needed to withdraw the amount of money she owed.


“Nobody’s told me how much I owe,” Robb said to the man who after a pause told her she owed $1,400.

She told the scammer she could only withdraw $400 from the ATM, to which the man responded they could probably work something out.

“So I said, ‘okay I’ve taken it out,” Robb said, when in reality she had not withdrawn any cash.

The man then told her to go to the prepaid card section. After arriving at that section, Robb told the man that they did not have a section for that.

In the end Robb told the man she would just go to the police department and sort it out there, to which the man promptly hung up.

Later on, Robb redialed the phone number who called her and found out that the number was to a correctional office in Colorado Springs.

“So they masked their own number with the correctional office,” Robb said.

Scams like these often hit campus, and a cyber security expert who recently visited CSU discussed how difficult it can be to keep up with new scams all the time.

“You are never really going to solve the problem,” said Ravi Sandhu, executive director of the Institute for Cyber Security at the University of Texas. “You’re very busy catching up or staying a little bit ahead of the attacker.”

Collegian Reporter Skyler Leonard can be reached at and on twitter @skyler_leonard.