December 18, 2006

Criminal justice students' project focuses on fraud

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Criminal justice students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are taking a bite out of crime.

With the encouragement of George W. Burruss, assistant professor at SIUC's Center for the Study of Crime, Delinquency and Corrections, part of the College of Liberal Arts, students started a public awareness campaign focusing on consumer fraud called White-Collar Crime Service Learning Project.

Undergraduates produced original posters warning people about common scams such as sweepstakes fraud, identity theft and telemarketing fraud. The posters are now on display at the SIUC Student Center and available online at

"I wanted the students to discover what information there was available to the public about various consumer frauds," said Burruss. "Instead of lecturing to them or having them read about it in a textbook, I wanted them to gather and present information to the general public."

Students studied the different ways criminals target consumers and then designed posters that direct people to the proper agency to file a complaint or report a fraud.

"As a former criminal investigator in consumer fraud with the Missouri Attorney General, I found that many of the victims we dealt with could have avoided being ripped off if they just had some basic information about consumer protection. I wanted the students to learn this same lesson and do something about it," Burruss said.

Matt R. Hilton of Bolingbrook (1545 Scarlet Drive), an administration of justice major, learned that taking simple measures can prevent fraud.

"This project is important because the incidences of fraud as well as the kinds of fraud in our society is increasing and the public has a right to be informed of this fact and be afforded the opportunity to learn how they can protect themselves," Hilton said.

In that way, the professor not only taught his students about crime, Burruss instilled them with good values and a strong urge to help their communities.

"This is the service learning aspect of the project. They learn about the topic and provide valuable information to the public," said Burruss.

Burruss holds a bachelor's degree in English from University of Missouri, Columbia and master's and doctoral degrees in criminology and criminal justice from University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Reaching out and serving others are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.