An international student with limited language skills arrives in an airport and is approached by a helpful-looking taxi driver. The student needs to get to a place 150 miles away. Sorry kid, no more buses, says the driver. But I can take you.
Great, the kid replies. How much?
Oh, only 1,000 RMB.
Sound familiar? Except this didn’t happen in China, and the driver didn’t quote RMB. He said dollars, as in 1,000 USD — for a trip from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Urbana-Champagne. Oh, and he also lied about the buses.
After reaching his destination, the driver changed his mind and said the fare would actually be $4,800. The student didn’t have that much, so he forked over $4,240 — all of his money.
Reports Illinois’s The News-Gazette:
(UI police Sgt. Tom) Geis said the student initially tried to reach Chicago police via email and that the case came to their attention on Monday of this week. They then contacted the Chicago police station at O’Hare in hopes of identifying the scammer. The only description police have is that he is a white male, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a medium build and lighter short hair. The student did not supply an age.
Geis said he’s heard of students being taken advantage of through Craigslist scams for apartment rentals or fake checks sent as downpayments for summer jobs — but never anything quite like this.
The incident happened on August 20, with the student’s plane touching down at around 6 pm.
Geis said the student was so overwhelmed that he left his cellphone in the scammer’s vehicle.
There is, as far as we can tell, only one difference between getting scammed in China and in the US. You can call the police in the latter, and they’ll actually help. Of course, with such limited descriptions of the scammer — not even an age estimate? — it seems unlikely the student will see his lost money.
Julie Misa, director of the International Student and Scholar Services program, said her office has a website with all kinds of information that foreign students can view before they ever leave home.
“We point them to our web page where we have extensive pre-arrival information, including information about transportation from Chicago to Champaign.
“We try to get them basic information. We do talk about how much cash to bring to get started. I think our suggestion is more in the neighborhood of $2,000,” said Misa.
There’s a reason programs exist to prepare students for their trips abroad. What an awful way to start an international adventure, this. We do, of course, wish the best for the kid. It can only get better from here.
UI student from China scammed out of thousands at O’Hare (The News Gazette, h/t Daily Mail via Nick Papa)