On Friday, February 21st, at around 10 am, I came in contact with a potential scammer at the UIC Bookstore. The conversation started off with a compliment about my hair then progressed to inquiries about my major, academic year, and plans for after graduation. After discussing these topics, the suspect, who posed as an alumnus of the university, confirmed that I sounded “just like” them when they were attending UIC.
The spotlight then shifted towards the suspect, as they informed me of their passion of becoming a dermatologist who specializes in melanin-sufficient skin. It seemed as if we both shared an interest in building a business that created a value proposition for black people and other people of color.
The suspect went on to tell me about her mentors, who, in their case, are currently guiding them towards becoming a successful entrepreneur and being able to retire within the next two years. The mentors, as the suspect described them, were women entrepreneurs who retired in their early twenties and are now living a well sustainable life in their 40’s.
Intrigued by this information, I asked for the Linkedin page of the women entrepreneurs. I was met with the response of “they’re not on LinkedIn.” Then I questioned if these women had a website(s) so that I could learn more about said “mentors.” In response, the suspect said that their mentors are not into gaining publicity, and would rather connect with individuals who truly desire to learn and grow through a mentorship program.
Unfortunately, I was not able to ask more about the program or the impact it had on the suspect, due to a meeting I had to go to, however, before going our separate ways, the suspect and I exchanged numbers and planned to meet up again to discuss more about our entrepreneurial journeys over coffee.
Wednesday, February 27, 2020, at 3 pm the potential scammer and I met up in UIC Student Center East at the lounge area near Dunkin’.
The text message from the potential scammer
Before agreeing to meet up again at this location and time, the suspect wanted to meet up off-campus at the Panera Bread on 1101 S Canal Street.
My text response to the potential scammer
I did not feel comfortable leaving campus to meet up with said “alumni” so I asked the suspect if we were able to meet up on campus instead.
After our friendly greetings, the suspect went straight into interviewer mode with the statement “tell me about yourself.” I told the story of my creative background and current independent projects. As I was talking, I can admit to feeling a bit nervous as well as excited about having a potential mentor who would aid me in fulfilling my career goals. However, after my response, our conversation seemed to take a rather repetitive and vague turn. The suspect stated how I, again, resembled them, how their mentors were not open to the public, how I needed to go through a mentorship program, where I would then be able to meet the mentors in person, and how participants of the program are able to walk away from their job within two years.
I was beyond skeptical at this point, but what really sent me into denial was the suspect’s answer to this question:
“What steps have you taken in developing your business since having your mentors’ guidance?”
In response to this question, the potential scammer said with a bright smile across their face “having met my mentors was the biggest step of all since they provided me information I needed to one day be like them. And since meeting them, I don’t think I’ll have the same business idea.”
This answer might have seemed fine to them, but to me, it was completely wrong. The suspect danced around my questions, leaving me with no evidence of their legitimacy. We spent 30 minutes talking and by the end of our meeting, the suspect asked if I would be someone they could mention to their mentors without a doubt of me falling through to be apart of the mentorship. I was given the deadline of 4:30 pm to confirm if I wanted the suspect to mention my name during the next time they meet with their mentors.
My final text message to the potential scammer
And at 4:24, I sent this text.
I would advise all students to be aware of potential scammers on campus and to be logical when someone is presenting a program or organization to you. If your values do not line up to theirs or if the information provided seems sketchy, do not engage any further without evidence of legitimacy. Stay safe!