As Halloween approaches, there is one thing far more nefarious and terrifying than ghouls and goblins – TAX SCAMS! Don’t feel too spooked, the International Office is here to tell you how to identify the scams, what to do if you are contacted by a scammer, and how to avoid the scammers.
International students at UT and other universities across the U.S. have frequently been targets of a variety of scams due to their lack of knowledge about the U.S. tax system. The scammers are working diligently to defraud you of your hard-earned money, and they are working earlier than ever by starting their scams well in advance of the tax season.
The scammer will identify themselves as a police officer, government official, IRS, or UT official and threaten dismissal from the university, deportation from the U.S., dropped classes, lawsuits, or other severe consequences unless the student immediately pays for a delinquent tax debt. Repayment demanded from the official is usually made via money order, wire transfer, iTunes gift cards, or other difficult to track payment methods. Oftentimes, they will mention the fake “Federal Student Tax” as reason for payment.
The scammers will also oftentimes have personal information (commonly found in the UT Directory such as name, address, etc.) to establish legitimacy and deceive the student. Please note that the university, a police department or the U.S. government will never call directly and demand immediate payment over the phone.
A number of reports have been made that UT students are also being called from a phone number that belongs to the Office of Financial Aid. The Office of Financial Aid has also posted an alert on their website.
What should you do if you receive such a call?
- Hang up immediately! The scammers are extremely aggressive and will try to keep the student on the phone, but do not listen to their threats.
- Scammers will state that you are not allowed to share this private information with others, but this is false as you are able to share your tax information with other people freely.
- If you are unsure about whether or not the call was a scam, please contact the International Office via phone at (512) 471-2477, visit us in person during business hours, or email email@example.com.
What not to do:
- Do not stay on the phone with the scammer.
- Do not provide any additional personal, bank, or financial information to the caller.
- Do not perform a wire transfer or purchase moneygrams, green dot cards, or any other cash payments to provide to the caller.
- Spread the word to your friends! The more that people are aware of this scam, the less effective it will become.
- Login to your UT Direct account to make sure that your home address and contact information are set to private so that they will not be displayed publicly on the UT website. You may also restrict your information online through UT Direct or by going in-person to the Office of the Registrar in the Main Building.
- Remember, if what the caller is telling you sounds strange, inaccurate, or makes you feel uncomfortable, then something is not right and you should hang up.
If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.
IRS Article About Tax Scams: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/taxpayers-should-be-wary-of-unsolicited-calls-from-the-irs
USCIS Article with Common Scams: https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams/common-scams
Treasury Department Page on Reporting IRS Scams: https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml
Federal Trade Commission Scam Reporting Website: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov