April 27, 1995
Vol. 14, No. 16

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    Pattern of scams reported by SECC

    Everyone has heard the old adage "don't talk to strangers." A new version may be "don't accept packages for them, either."

    In a series of four incidents -- two of them on campus -- reported by the South East Chicago Commission, a man identifying himself as a doctor or professor has called a place of business and asked that someone there accept a package that would soon be delivered and pay the courier's fee, which the caller would reimburse later that day.

    "Some of the story lines were more elaborate than others, but in each case, the courier showed up to collect the money, but the caller -- who variably called himself Dr. Goldwin, Dr. Mitchell or Professor Goldman -- never did," said Robert Richards, law-enforcement coordinator for the SECC. The money collected by the "courier" ranged from $8 to $35.

    The first incident was reported on March 28 at Caffe Florian. According to Richards, a similar incident occurred later that same evening at another Hyde Park business, although a formal police report was not filed. The attendant at the Hospitals parking structure reported an incident at 2 a.m. on April 9, and the bartender at the Pub in Ida Noyes Hall reported an incident in the late afternoon of April 10. In the latter incident, the courier showed up, but the bartender became suspicious and refused to accept the package or pay the fee. He notified University Police, but the courier left the premises before they arrived.

    "We suspect that these may not be the only incidents that have occurred recently," Richards said. "Because the sums of money involved in some cases have been relatively small, people may be reluctant to file a police report, but we strongly encourage them to do so. We also encourage people never to accept packages, envelopes or any other items for or from anyone they do not know personally.

    "If you receive a similar phone call, please notify the police immediately," Richards added. To reach University Police, dial 123 from any campus phone or call 702-8181.

    Several similar incidents were reported in Hyde Park a few years ago. In all of the cases, the caller identified himself as a doctor or a professor.