Unfortunately, it is increasingly common for people to take advantage of others online and over the phone. International students and scholars are often targets for fraudulent scams.
One technique of scammers is called “Caller ID Spoofing” in which a scammer calls an international student or scholar and the scammer is posing as a government official to request personal information. The scammer may claim that they are an immigration official with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services’ (USCIS), a representative from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a representative from the Social Security Administration, a police officer, or an official in a position of authority. In many cases, the caller ID may show a number that appears to be legitimate (Social Security Administration, Austin Police Department, etc). Please note, scammers can edit caller ID to say one thing and the actual number calling is not from an official office.
THE SCAMMER WILL…
• Claim you are in trouble with the law and facing deportation.
• Ask you to go to a store and purchase a voucher payable to the scammer through a pre-loaded debit card.
• Threaten you with deportation if you do not pay.
IF YOU SUSPECT A SCAM
• Remain Calm. You should not be frightened by threats of prosecution or deportation coming from any entity or private person over the phone.
• Do not provide any payment or personal information about yourself over the phone or by email, for identity-protection purposes. Understand that any legitimate authority, whether it’s a police agency, personal bank, or any other company will NEVER solicit money or services in this manner.
• Contact ISSS immediately for assistance: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about scams, there are a number of resources:
• U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – Avoid Scams
• Tax Scam/U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – Telephone Scams
• U.S. Federal Trade Commission – Consumer Information – Scam Alerts
• U.S. Department of State – Fraud Warning – Diversity Visa Lottery Scam
Please take a moment to read through these additional tips to avoid compromising your personal information:
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Some threats do not seem threatening. If you receive a call or email stating that you have earned a scholarship or won money, do not give them your credit card number or any other personal information about yourself. Ask for a contact number and organization name so you can look into the legitimacy of the offer. If you did not directly apply for the scholarship, it is probably not genuine.
Keep your documents and personal information secure. Do not post pictures or scans of your immigration documents online. When using social media, make sure your privacy settings are secure. Posts accessible to “friends of friends” can be seen by virtually anyone.
Be careful about clicking links or downloading documents for unsolicited emails. These websites or documents can contain harmful programs to put your computer (and information) at risk.