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Beware of Scams!

Scammers Are Smart, but Not as Smart as You

You may encounter scams while in the United States. Some scammers even know that you are an international student or scholar here and seek to use this information to intimidate you or trick you into giving them money. Because these scammers' tactics are sophisticated and ever-changing, students can fall victim to their attacks and risk losing money or even safety.

Here are some common scams and tips to help you avoid dangers:

  1. The US government does not call people, they communicate in writing. If you receive a call from someone claiming they are from the "IRS," "ICE," or other US government agencies, you may safely assume they are not. You can feel confident to end the call without consequence.
    1. Sometimes these people will give you a "badge number" or "agent ID," and they can sound very official. They will try to convince you to give them your personal information (social security number, address, bank account info, etc.). Do not give personal information over the phone - end the call. If you believe the call to be valid, visit our office and we will reach out to our government representatives to confirm.
    2. The US government will never ask for money over the phone.
  2. Sometimes students are contacted by alleged representatives from their home country. We cannot speak to the legitimacy of all contact from your home country, but we have had many reports of students being contacted by an "agent" from their home country. In every single instance, the agent was ultimately determined to be fraudulent. In one instance, the scam was linked to a human trafficking crime ring.
    1. You should have the contact information for your home country's embassy/consulate in the US, and reach out to the embassy before responding to calls from "government agents."
  3. In the past, students have fallen victim to "catfishing," where an online romantic interest is actually running a scam for money. If you are in an online relationship:
    1. Do not give money or other resources.
    2. If you are invited to meet the person, do not meet privately. Arrange your meeting to be somewhere public and notify your friends/roommates of your plans (time, location, name and contact info of the person you are meeting) in advance.
  4. If you give your personal information, act quickly!
    1. Call your bank and/or credit card company immediately to see if you can freeze your account(s).
    2. Report the fraud to both the police and your financial institution.
    3. In instances of catfishing, do not feel shame or embarrassment; do not give money or agree to meet privately in order to avoid the scammer from "outing" you. Instead, report the fraud immediately to law enforcement.

Be alert! You are your own best skeptic. Don't be afraid to hang up on a caller - we have never heard of a single instance in which a call from a "government agent" turned out to be legitimate. Do not hesitate to contact our office with questions or concerns if you ever suspect a scam.

For more information, please visit the US Federal Trade Commission consumer fraud alert page.

Warning to Students: SEVIS Scam

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has been made aware of a spoofing scam involving individuals using an SEVP Response Center (SRC) phone number (703-603-3400) or a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office phone number (757-441-6533) to target nonimmigrant students. Fraudulent callers are claiming to be SEVP representatives and asking students to provide their immigration information, such as their Alien Registration Number or Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” information, or face deportation.

SEVP encourages designated school officials to reach out to their students to make them aware of this scam. If you or one of your students encounter, or are a victim of this spoof call, you are encouraged to report the incident to the HSI tip line. If you are unsure about the validity of a call from an SEVP official, you can also reach out to your designated SEVP field representative or contact the SRC.

Tips and items to remember:

  • NEVER divulge personal or financial information to unknown callers.
  • SEVP officials will NEVER ask stakeholders to provide credit/debit card/gift card numbers, wire transfers, or bank routing numbers, or to make bitcoin deposits for any purpose.
  • Report all suspicious calls to the HSI tip line and if you are unsure about the validity of a call from SEVP officials reach out to your designated SEVP field representative.

If you have any additional questions regarding this matter, please contact the SRC at 703-603-3400 or 800-892-4829, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, except federal holidays.