UI police Sgt. Tom Geis said the 18-year-old university Chinese student arrived at O'Hare International Airport Aug. 20 and, after clearing U.S. Customs, was outside terminal trying figure out how to get the bus to Champaign campus when approached by a man offering to drive him for $1,000, The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette reported.
"A man approached him and said the bus wouldn't be there until midnight and that he could drive him for $1,000," Geis said, and the student, whose understanding of English was limited, agreed.
"He drives him to his residence hall ... in Urbana. The driver then writes down the cost of the trip, which totals $4,800. The student said he didn't have that much cash so he gave him what he had," Geis said.
Geis said he thought the victim lost about $4,240 and left his cellphone in the scammer's vehicle.
Geis said the student first tried to contact Chicago police by email and that the case came to the attention of the campus last week, the News-Gazette reported Wednesday. Campus police then contacted the Chicago police station at O'Hare, hoping to identify the scammer, described as a white male, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, with a medium build and lighter short hair.
Geis said he's heard of scams targeting students through Craigslist listings for apartment rentals or fake checks sent as down payments for summer jobs, but nothing like this.
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