Assistant Director of Public Safety and Grand Valley Police Department Captain Jeff Stoll said that students should be aware of underreported and sensitive crimes, particularly email scams and extortion attempts. While these incidents have not gotten more frequent, Stoll said they are cyclical and are more common during the fall semester.
The most common type of scam involves a fake check for a large sum of money, with the sender asking for a portion back. While the checks appear to be real, with money appearing in the students’ accounts, the check bounces or is invalid. These scams are usually attempted by a stranger.
Stoll said that these incidents are difficult to investigate, as many scammers are not local and target victims around the world. They are also unlikely to be reported, as students feel embarrassed by believing the scam.
Students can protect themselves by being wary of suspicious emails or requests to transfer money from strangers. Stoll said that running emails by friends can also keep students from following through.
Stoll said that reporting a scam can help keep others from falling victim. GVSU’s IT department is able to see the email recipients and even get the account suspended.
Another underreported issue is sexual extortion, or sextortion, that involves a victim being manipulated through compromising photos or information. Stoll said that the Grand Valley Police Department works to make students feel comfortable reporting sensitive issues like this.
“We have three officers specifically designed to connect to the community,” Stoll said, adding that officers work closely with resident assistants (RAs) to establish relationships. “We had a student feeling threatened and the RA acted as a conduit to connect us to that person. Because of that relationship with the RAs, we could connect to make sure it’s not an ongoing or current threat.”
Stoll said that GVPD also offers support by finding the best outlet for students. The Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity works with GVPD to make sure victims of sexual crimes are given the support they need.
“Investigation is a key aspect, but also support,” Stoll said, explaining that working with the Women’s Center allows them to “collectively move the student back onto the road to success.”
While GVPD is there to investigate these reports, Stoll said that they are also there to be open about the incident and to make students feel comfortable.
“We want to give you the time and energy you deserve as a victim and as a student,” Stoll said. “By doing that, we’re allowing victims to have a voice, and that’s empowering.”