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Campus put on alert for card scams

By Nathan Tafoya
Arizona Summer Wildcat
Monday August 25, 2003

As the fall semester begins, UAPD is reminding the campus community that a credit card fraud alert is still in effect.

The UAPD's Crime Prevention Office issued the alert on Aug. 12, warning the campus community of a possible credit card scam that may target UA students, employees and visitors.

Sgt. Eugene Mejia, who coordinates crime prevention programs on campus, said the alert was issued after a single incident in which a man told police he started receiving credit cards in his name at his home address. The man said he did not remember applying for the credit cards, saying he only remembered supplying his personal information once to an unidentified person, in exchange for free disposable cameras and phone cards.

Since the credit cards were not used to defraud the man, UAPD said it has a possible dead-end investigation, no arrests and no real leads.

"We're still trying to determine if a crime has been committed," Mejia said.

Though no crime has been uncovered in this case, the UAPD wants the campus community to be aware of the potential for scams.

"What we're dealing with, in this suspicious circumstance, is that we have people handing out free gifts," Mejia said. "They have no identification on them. They have no table set up. There is no banner. These are people who are walking up randomly to people walking on campus and asking them to write their names, addresses and telephone numbers on a blank piece of paper. That is highly unusual. That is not a bank application."

Diane Newman, the commercial and Mall activity coordinator, warned students against suspicious vendors.

"If they aren't at a table on the Mall in a designated space, then don't trust them," she said, noting that illegitimate vendors often show no signs of permanence, sit on benches in heavily trafficked areas and even pose as magazine subscription agents.

"Approved vendors are outside on the Mall. If they are anywhere else, they probably aren't approved," Newman said.

Except during the vendor fair this week, Newman said all future vendors will either be stationed on either the north side of the Student Union Memorial Center or in front of the Nugent building.

In order to verify that a vendor is legitimate, Mejia said students should look for banners, credentials, tables staffed with actual applications and T-shirts that identify the distributing party with a financial institution.

Vendors who want to set up a booth on the Mall must first be sponsored by a campus club, pay fees to the sponsoring club and the university and provide a copy of a business license or a tax ID number. The vendor is then given a Mall permit, Mejia said.

UA credit card vendors are also required to sign a privacy agreement that prohibits information sharing.

Aaron Ronn, a psychology and political science junior, said he never stops at Mall booths because he believes they share his personal information with other interested parties. Ronn said he tries to limit the amount of information he gives them.

But marketing senior Aizhan Mamyrbayeva, sitting across the table from Ronn, admitted she had given personal information to Mall vendors without verifying their legitimacy.

"I wanted a T-shirt," she said.

Ronn said he's observed student behavior similar to Mamyrbayeva's.

"(Students) walk through the Mall and see other people using these tables, and then are called over to the tables by some person there," Ronn said. "The person fills out what they're doing, grabs that free product and spends their time thinking about their free product as opposed to the information they just gave out."

Mejia said it is the students' responsibility to make sure they give their personal information to a legitimate financial institution. He said he hopes students will be cautious

"You don't have to fill out the application," Mejia said. "That is a voluntary process. You don't have to give out your information. If you aren't sure, we urge people not to give out their personal information."

UAPD is asking anyone with information regarding suspicious persons or activities to report the incidents to UAPD by calling 911 or 621-UAPD.

Information about campus alerts and information security can be accessed at and at the UAPD Web site,

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