By Michael Ortiz
A string of check cashing scams at Farmingdale State College led to Hofstra’s Department of Public Safety issuing a warning to students and revealing that two Hofstra students were victims of a different financial scam last semester. In two separate cases in February and April which are currently under police investigation, a student received a call that a family member was being held hostage and they needed to send money either through Western Union or another source, according to Director of Public Safety Karen O’Callaghan.
One of the victims sent $500 to the suspect and the other was asked to send $1,200. “They get a call from, it appears the phone number of a relative or brother – a close relative – they seem to have a lot of information about the person and they say ‘we’ve kidnapped your brother, and if you don’t get this money by this time, he’s gonna get hurt,’” O’Callaghan said.
“That’s really scary honestly because you have no idea,” said Alexa Meachen, a sophomore in the direct entry physician assistant program. “If somebody called me, I think I’d be like ‘no way.’ I would call my mom.”
Public Safety sent an email to students on Friday, Sept. 29 making them aware of three larceny incidents at Farmingdale of a different nature. “The suspect uses the student victim’s checking account to commit the larceny,” the statement read. “The suspect will offer to take the victim to his/her bank to assist with cashing a check. On occasion, the checks have not cleared and the bank accounts become frozen.”
Two victims from the college reported that they lost $200 and $1,000, while a third gave no money and their account was frozen, according to the statement. O’Callaghan says a similar scam occured at SUNY Old Westbury.
Jack Cimorelli, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, said, “I feel like you’re kind of dumb for doing that. Why are you taking a random ass guy to the bank and cashing a check in your name? That’s the sketchiest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Obviously anytime a stranger comes up and asks you anything about finances or to assist them with doing anything you should question why they’re doing that, because in this day in age with all these issues with people stealing identities and things like that, you should be very cautious of that especially of any kind of information related to your checking and banking accounts,” O’Callaghan said.
One of the incidents at Farmingdale occurred at a Chase drive-thru ATM, however O’Callaghan said it was not isolated to any one bank. In addition to warning students of the scam, O’Callaghan also alerted the TD Bank located in the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center, “so that if something like that is suspicious it will trigger something in their head, to be suspicious if a student is being escorted in by somebody else,” she said.
“That’s something you see in movies. I would have no idea what to do, Meachen said. “What people would do for money.”