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WVU issues ‘Community Notice’ about fraud and harassment scams

Scams include multiple ‘sextortion’ complaints, with students reporting someone threatening to distribute private and sensitive material if monetary demands not met


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. Following six reports to West Virginia University Police in January involving alleged fraud and harassment schemes targeting students, members of the campus community are being urged to use caution when interacting with others online, via social media and when receiving unsolicited phone calls or text messages.

The cases include multiple “sextortion” complaints, with students reporting someone was threatening to distribute private and sensitive material if monetary demands were not met. A separate case was a “government impersonator scam,” in which the scammer called the victim, falsely claimed to be a law enforcement officer and indicated the victim was going to be arrested for missing jury duty unless a payment was made.

Such “sextortion” and “government impersonator scams” are not uncommon. The following resources and tips have been prepared to inform and support the University community. 


According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in “sextortion” cases,

              Most victims report the initial contact with the fraudster is mutual and made using dating                      websites and apps. Soon after the encounter, the fraudster requests the interaction be moved                from the website or app to another messaging platform. The fraudster instigates the                                exchange of sexually explicit material and then encourages the victim to participate via video                chat or send their own explicit photos. Immediately after the victim complies, the fraudster                  blackmails the victim and demands money to prevent the release of the photos or videos on                  social media. The fraudster often gains access to the victim’s social media or contact                                information and threatens to send the images to the victim’s family and friends. (Alert No. I-                090221-PSA, https://www.ic3.gov/Media/Y2021/PSA210902). 

In addition to reporting the incident to WVUPD, (304) 293-COPS, the following guidance was obtained from the FBI’s 2021 Alert:

Tips on how to protect yourself:

              • NEVER send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are or who               they say they are.

              • Do not open attachments from people you do not know. Links can secretly hack your               electronic devices using malware to gain access to your private data, photos, and contacts, or               control your web camera and microphone without your knowledge.

              • Turn off your electronic devices and web cameras when not in use.

If you are receiving sextortion threats:

               • Remember you are not alone as thousands are victimized by this scam.

               • Stop all interaction with the extortionist and do not be embarrassed or afraid to contact                          law enforcement.

               • File a complaint with the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov.

Additional information on sextortion is available here:


“Government Impersonator Scams”

It is important to remember that scammers will use all different types of aliases and scenarios to scare and pressure a victim into paying quickly. Remember: Government agencies will not call, email or text you and ask for money or personal information. The Federal Trade Commission provides the following tips on how to avoid government impersonator scams:

                • Don’t wire money, send cash, or use gift cards or cryptocurrency to pay someone who says                     they’re with the government. Scammers ask you to pay these ways because it’s hard to                             track that money and almost impossible to get it back. They’ll take your money and                                disappear.

                • Don’t give your financial or other personal information to someone who calls, texts, or                            emails and says they’re with the government. If you think a call or message could be real,                        stop. Hang up the phone and call the government agency directly at a number you know is                    correct.

                • Don’t trust your caller ID. Your caller ID might show the government agency’s real phone                       number or even say “Social Security Administration,” for example. But caller ID can be                           faked. It could be anyone calling from anywhere in the world.

               • Don’t click on links in unexpected emails or text messages. Scammers send emails and text                   messages that look like they’re from a government agency but are designed to steal your                         money and your personal information. Don’t click on any link and don’t pass it on to                               others. Simply delete the message.

Additional information on government impersonator scams is available here:


If you have been involved in a government impersonator scam, report it to:

                • WVUPD – (304) 293-2677

                • Contact the agency the scammer identified themselves to be from. 

                • FBI IC3 – www.ic3.gov

                • The Federal Trade Commission – ReportFraud.ftc.gov 

                • Report all suspicious emails received at your WVU outlook emails                                                                 to [email protected]

West Virginia University Resources:

                 • University Police Department – 911 | (304) 293-2677 | (304) 293-3136

                 • CARE Team

                 • Carruth Center – (304) 293-4431

                 • Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – (304) 293-5600

                 • Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities – (304) 293-8111

                 • Faculty-Staff Assistance Program – (304) 293-5590

                 • Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center – (304) 292-5100

                 • Office of Campus and Community Life – (304) 293-5611

                 • Student Health Service – (304) 285-7200

                 • Division of Student Life – (304) 293-5811 

Health, safety, preparedness and training resources are posted at safety.wvu.edu and also available at police.wvu.edu

Students and employees are encouraged to follow the WVU Safety and Wellness Facebook page and @WVUsafety on Twitter.

A Community Notice is part of WVU’s three-tiered emergency notification system used to enhance student and employee safety and provide useful information to the community.

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