FBI warns of bookstore scam

By Morgan Fink

DeKALB — The FBI issued a warning to students about a recent campus bookstore credit card scam that broke out at multiple universities and colleges.

Officials at various universities reported their bookstores lost thousands of dollars because of the usage of stolen credit card information. Perpetrators claimed they lost their student IDs and had other students help them at the counter with their own IDs, FBI investigators found.

Most incidents involved high-end electronics purchased with stolen credit card information.

Campuses are being targeted because bookstores offer discounts for students. Students also want to help strangers in unlucky situations, said Larry Ellington, NIU Police Department sergeant of investigations.

Ellington warned students, administrators and campus bookstores of the dangers of the credit card scams. He said scammers target college students because there are a lot of people located in a campus area.

“In general, I think college students get preyed upon maybe a little bit more so than other members of society,” Ellington said. “A lot of this has to do with students being young and in the college environment. As of right now, there is not active effort to keep this scam from happening at NIU since the campus has not yet been targeted.”

There isn’t an exact way to prevent these credit card scams from reaching NIU, Ellington said, but taking the proper precautions can help prevent scammers from being successful. One of these policies includes showing identification before making any purchases.

“A lot of people are successful with scams like this because the people behind the desk will just take the credit card with whatever name is on it and no photo ID,” Ellington said. “Anybody that takes that extra step and asking for a photo ID is going to make a huge difference in preventing things like this from happening. As long as policies like that are already in place, it will be safer.”

Campus bookstores like the Village Commons Bookstore, 901 Lucinda Ave, always check photo IDs to match them with the credit cards being used, store manager Jody Boardman said.

“Employees always ask customers for any type of photo ID in order to make sure it is the correct person when they present any type of credit card,” Boardman said. “It is a policy we have in place no matter what.”

Although the scam hasn’t reached NIU’s campus, students, administrators and campus bookstores should take proper precautions in order to stay safe. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is, Ellington said.

“It is okay to have a healthy level of skepticism,” Ellington said. “Not to say students need to run around being fearful, but it’s okay to second guess situations such as strangers asking for help making purchases.”

If one falls victim to a credit card scandal such as this, Ellington said he or she should call 911 and write everything about the incident down.

“This is students’ first times being out on their own and away from adult figures who they usually run things by and talk to about situations like this,” Ellington said. “Where else are you going to find 15,000 people packed into a two square mile radius? They’re all potential victims.”

FBI representatives could not be reached for comment.