Scammers claim university ties to solicit money

Be careful when answering a call of duty for your alma mater, it might be a scam.

Two cases of door-to-door solicitation scams were reported to TCU, victimizing a TCU graduate and a former TCU professor, said Shawn Kornegay, associate director of communications.

The incident involving the TCU graduate occurred in the greater Dallas area, Kornegay said. According to a campuswide e-mail sent by TCU Police Detective Vicki Lawson this solicitor claimed to be seeking support for Study Abroad programs at TCU and also claimed to be working through Prestige Sales, a company out of Phoenix, Ariz. This company, despite having a working Web site, is nonexistent, according to the e-mail. The creator of the Web site could not be reached for comment.

The other incident occurred close to the TCU campus and involved a former TCU professor, Kornegay said. This solicitor claimed to be a TCU music student selling cookbooks and magazines in order to raise funds for the TCU Orchestra, according to the e-mail.

“Fraud occurs in societies where there are a lot of people who don’t know each other because you deal with people based on reputation,” said Jeff Ferrell, a sociology professor.

Ferrell said the suspects in these cases are people with skills in impression management because fraud is a crime of confidence and persuasion rather than brute force.

Fraud has not only moved online but still takes place face to face, Ferrell said.

“We increasingly focus and people’s fears are focused around Internet phishing and online identity theft,” Ferrell said. “I think in some ways that’s looking the wrong direction. While that’s there, I think interpersonal fraud, door-to-door fraud, confidence gains and hustles are still common. There is still plenty of old fashioned face-to-face fraud and misrepresentation going on.”

The falling economy can also play a part in the rising cases of fraud and new methods of crime, Ferrell said.

“Tough economic times tend to spawn new and more prolific crime,” Ferrell said. “The strain on people that will be brought about by this will lead to criminal innovation in terms of how to obtain money, likely offers of help of or promises of economic assistance; a double irony that the downward economy actually offers new chances to commit fraud.”

Kornegay said TCU never does any form of door-to-door soliciting, nor does it use any fundraising company’s services.

A similar incident occurred in 2007 involving fraudulent magazine sales associated with TCU, Kornegay said.

TCU and Fort Worth Police could not be reached for comment.