International students and scholars should know about scam immigration phone calls that have been reported by universities across the U.S. Here is a specific situation that occurred recently:
An international student in New York City received a phone call from someone claiming to be from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The phone number matched the USCIS toll-free number. The caller claimed that on a recent trip abroad, the student had not filled out his I-94 card correctly and USCIS caught the error on the student’s pending OPT application. The caller had the student’s name, date of birth, address, phone number, and could confirm the last 4 digits of his I-94 number. The caller told the student that he needed to leave the United States immediately because a criminal case was pending against him.
When the student said he could not travel abroad currently, the caller said that “USCIS” could help him but only if he took action and sent money within the next two hours. The student was told that if he did not send money immediately, he would be deported within 24 hours. The student told the caller that he needed to call his International Students and Scholars Office to verify, but the caller said that if he hung up or even put the caller on hold, “USCIS” could not help him. The caller also told him that “USCIS” had already sent a court summons to his home address abroad but there had been no response. The caller then gave the student detailed instructions on how to send money via Western Union from a nearby drug store. The caller also told him that in order to fix the I-94 problem, he would need to pay additional money for a temporary A#, which he would then need to take to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at JFK Airport where the student would be assisted further. Unfortunately, the panicked student fell for the scam and ended up sending over $1,600 to “USCIS.” (Source: NAFSA)
U.S. government officials will NOT contact you asking for money or personal information such as a Social Security Number, bank account, credit card information, passport number, or I-94 card number. If a caller asks for these things, stay calm and do not give out any personal information. Here are some steps you should take if you receive a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from a government agency:
- Calmly ask what the call is about. Take specific notes about what the caller is saying and requesting.
- Politely request the agent’s information. Write down the agent’s full name, agency, and any identification number he or she can provide. Also request his or her direct phone number so you can call back. If the caller doesn’t want to give you this information, it is probably a scam.
- Immediately contact an international student or scholar advisor with the information you have recorded. ISSS will help you to investigate the reason for the call and determine if it is valid. If it is a fraudulent call, it should be reported the police. ISSS can help you with this.
Remember that you have rights. Don’t ever give out any personal information or money to someone who calls you unexpectedly. Immigration scams may be reported to USCIS. Please see the USCIS Avoid Scams Website.
If you have questions or need additional information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, please be wary of any phone calls or emails you may receive from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS website describes potential scams that could affect you. If you receive any suspicious emails from the IRS, report them to the IRS.