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Protect Yourself from Scams

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security continues to see an increase in the number of scams targeting unsuspecting international students and scholars. International students and scholars are often still adjusting to the U.S. and may not realize they are being contacted by a scammer.

Study in the States provides great resources here.

Students and scholars are contacted in a variety of ways through threatening phone calls or messages on social media; these threats usually involve giving the scammer money in exchange for something.

It's easy to be a target but by using the information below, international students and scholars can gain the awareness they need to protect themselves.

Educate Yourself about Scams

How to Recognize a Scam

  • The Department of Homeland Security typically does not call you nor will they ask for money over the phone. The IRS will NEVER call. Almost no government office will contact you via email (with the exception of the Department of State who will email you using the address on your visa application).
  • Check that the email address ends in @gov.edu

What a Scammer Will Do

  • The caller will use fear, threat, or intimidation to get what they what.
  • They will claim that you owe money, have committed a fraud, and/or will be deported if you don’t act immediately.
  • A scammer will try to keep you on the phone
  • A scammer will often tell you that you have won a prize/scholarship/etc. but that you need to provide your personal financial information to receive it.
  • A scammer will use legal languages like “federal regulations” and “visa fee” to sound like the government.

What You Should Do

  • Ask for the caller's name, ID or badge number, phone number, and tell them you will call them back. Get as much information as you can to report this scammer. The more information you have, the more the U.S. government will have to find the scammer
  • End the conversation immediately if threats and intimidations persist. 
  • Do not cash checks or money orders that arrive in the mail unless you knew it was coming
  • Do not sign contracts or give your personal information (even if you are excited about the potential money!). 
  • Contact ISSS, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigation's Tip Line and the FTC's Complaint Form
  • Learn about identity theft and how to protect yourself.
  • Only use information provided on actual government websites (these end in .gov). 
  • Google yourself to check how much of your personal information is available

Common Scams

  • Someone will call and threaten you, your immigration status, or your family if you don't give them a large sum of money.
  • You are asked for financial login or school login information
  • Someone promises to pay your school fees in return for a “discount” or to protect your student/immigration status.
  • Someone says you need to pay an international fee, in return for a "discount."
  • Someone says you need to pay an "international student/scholar tax" or "visa fee."
  • Fees to enter the Green Card (Diversity) Lottery. 
  • Threatening to publish fake photos of you online. 
  • Someone says they are a school/government official and that you need to pay money to safeguard your immigration status or transfer your record. 
  • You pay a deposit on a rental but no one provides the keys.