BOSTON (CBS) — Boston University police are warning students about an extortionist that recently scammed almost $2,000 from an international student and may strike again.

The university said a student received a call on Thursday from someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service. The caller threatened to arrest and deport the student unless she put $1,200 on a Green Dot MoneyPak reloadable debit card and gave the number to them.

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The student agreed, and one hour later, a separate person pretending to be an immigration officer demanded about $700 using the same payment method. The student paid the money again, to clear up a “nonexistent” arrest warrant.

Police believe the calls came from overseas and are urging students to be cautious.

“You’re never going to get a call from [the government] saying there’s a warrant for your arrest…unless you pay us a fine or back taxes,” BUPD Detective Peter Didomencia said.

The Green Dot cards have become popular among scammers, the university said. They’re sold at stores like CVS for people who don’t have bank accounts, and thieves can access the money if they know the number.

Last year, the university said scammers called in a bomb threat to a CVS near campus, demanding payment via a Green Dot card.

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The store called police and learned it was a scam.

Police have contacted the FBI and Secret Service to let them know about the scam, the school said.

“There are many variations to this fraudulent scheme, including callers claiming to be from utility companies or callers claiming that a relative of the victim is in distress and needs immediate help,” police said. “You should be aware that the telephone numbers used by the scammers are frequently ‘spoofed,’ meaning that the telephone call is made from the Internet…where the caller can create the number that shows up on your caller ID.”

Anyone who believes they have been scammed should call police.


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