Skip to Content

Examples of Common Scams and Frauds Aimed at International Students

1. Immigration Scam:

Callers claimed to be from the Department of Immigration and rang up international students telling them that their visas were due to be terminated as there was some fault with the documents that the students originally submitted. The students were then asked to remit money to an account number and told that their visas would be sorted out. Fearing for their security, a number of naive students panicked and transferred money.

Remember: 

Government officials will never ask you for your passport number and social security number over the telephone or email. Do not share these details with anyone. If anyone stops and questions you directly ask for proper identification and speak to your university admissions officer. Students in the USA can register a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.


2. Tax Scam:

Please be advised that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes. The IRS would not request for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS would not ask for a credit card number over the phone.

The callers who commit this fraud often:

  • Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers
  • Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number
  • Make caller ID information appear as if the IRS is calling
  • Send bogus IRS e-mails to support their scam
  • Call a second time claiming to be the police or someone from the department of motor vehicles, and the caller ID supports their claim

What to do if you get a call claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment:

  • If you owe federal taxes or think you might owe taxes, hang up immediately and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you do not owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Include “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

3. Shady Scholarship Agents:

A scholarship can come in extremely handy for students to meet some of their tuition and fee expenses. Most scholarships are offered by educational institutions, government and private philanthropists and charitable organizations. Be wary of scholarship agents who approach you promising to secure a huge scholarship for you if you pay them a certain percentage of money up-front. These scammers seek to cheat unsuspecting and gullible students. 

Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit or excellence in a specific field such as sports, music, and dance. Scholarships offered by genuine awarding bodies do not chase students asking them to pay money up-front. Hence be wary of any scholarship agent who promises to secure huge sums of money to fund your studies.


4. Study Loan Agents:

Similar to the shady scholarship agents mentioned above, there are numerous ‘bank-agents’ who promise to secure bank loans to unsuspecting students. Be wary of shady operators who promise low rates of interest and extended loan-repayment tenures for a significant fee that has to be paid up front.


5. Off-Campus Student Accommodation:

Students opting for off-campus accommodation should only opt for certified and authorized accommodation options that are suggested by the university. Be wary as students have been fooled by attractive looking images on a website operated by the scammer and paid deposit only to discover no such accommodation existed upon arrival to the US. A variation of this scam was when actual houses and apartments were there but belonged to someone else and the owners had no clue on how their houses/ apartments got listed for rent. 


6. Diversity Visa - Program Scammers Sending Fraudulent Emails and Letters: 

The Department of State, Office of Visa Services, advises the public of a notable increase in fraudulent emails and letters sent to Diversity Visa (DV) program (Visa Lottery) applicants. Be wary as the scammers behind these fraudulent emails and letters are posing as the US government in an attempt to extract payment from DV applicants. All applicants should be familiar with information about DV scams provided by the Federal Trade Commission. Applicants are encouraged to review the rules and procedures for the DV program so that you know what to expect, when to expect it, and from whom. 

While DV applicants may receive an email from the US government reminding them to check their status online through DV Entrant Status Check, they will not receive a notification letter or email informing them that they are a successful DV entrant. Applicants can only find out if they were selected to continue with DV processing by checking their status online through the DV Entrant Status Check at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov.

Remember that fees for the DV application process are paid to the US Embassy or consulate cashier at the time of your scheduled appointment. The US government will never ask you to send payment in advance by check, money order, or wire transfer.