Sunday, November 29, 2020

Scholastic Shakedown

Plattsburgh State Executive Director of Marketing and Communication Ken Knelly sent a campus-wide email Sept. 2 about a campus scam in which he warned about two individuals claiming to represent a study abroad program approaching students.

Interim Chief of PSUC University Police Jerry Lottie said in-person incidents such as these are rare, but Internet scams are becoming more common. Lottie said these Internet scams are not localized to college servers.

“Normally, it’s people from outside of the area conducting scams,” Lottie said. “We’ve been fortunate that most of our students and faculty and staff are fairly savvy and catch on to a scam before they lose any money.”

Lottie said in an email regarding the aforementioned scam that, as of Sept. 2, 9:30 p.m., University Police estimated eight students lost about $2,066 in total to the suspects. Lottie said the force obtained this information based on voluntary statements from those whom the suspects took money.

Lottie said the case is still under investigation and that the suspects in the case have not been apprehended, or identified.

“Our assumption is that the people weren’t from this area,” he said. “They probably moved from area to area. As a matter of fact, SUNY Albany had a similar incident on their campus within days of ours.”

Lottie said it is possible that the same two people were involved, but he said he doesn’t know for sure.

There are a variety of charges for this type of crime, Lottie said, including larceny, criminal impersonation and possibly, depending on how many victims there were, a charge of “scheming to defraud.”

Lottie said a larceny charge can be up to a felony while criminal impersonation is a misdemeanor.

According to a PDF document on penal law Lottie sent by email, a misdemeanor is an offense “other than a ‘traffic infraction,’” for which one can be imprisoned from 15 days’ to a year’s time.

According to the same document, a felony is an offense for which one can be imprisoned for more than a year.

“Scheming to defraud,” indicates that the act was “perpetrated a number of times,” Lottie said.

He said the reason these scams happen is strictly about money.

“There might be some psychological gain to it, like you’ve outsmarted somebody, but mostly, this is about money,” Lottie said. “They make it seem like a competition; they add a sense of urgency to it, so the scheme seems more plausible; they link it to the campus by, in this case, saying they were
connected with the campus in some way.”

Lottie said that it happened earlier in the semester when new students were more eager to network and make friends, which led to students being more likely to be open to this type of scam.

The Center for Student Involvement accepts applications from students who wish to fundraise on campus. Those who wish to do so can find an application online that asks questions such as what or whom proceeds will benefit, where funds will be deposited, the estimated profit of the fundraiser and where the collection will take place.

Kyanne Smith, a junior communication studies major, said she would be upset if she were scammed. If someone were asking her to donate money, she would ask questions as to the specific cause and background information about it.

Paige Martin, a sophomore who majors in communication disorders and sciences, said she knows someone whom the scam suspects asked for money, but he refused to donate. Martin would not say the name of this person.

Martin said she would be mad if she were trying to do something nice, and scammers would then take “advantage” of her generosity.

She also said she would be more skeptical in the future if people ask her for money.

“You never know what people could have used that money for,” Smith said.

Email Patrick Willisch at patrick.willisch@cardinalpointsonline.com

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