Scams Targeting International Students

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Each year, there are unfortunately a number of scams targeted at international students. Read below about avoiding scams throughout the year and two scams that are targeting international students during this busy and stressful time of the year.Please remember these following tips if you receive an email from an organization instructing you to give personal or bank information. Remember that if you have any questions about the legitimacy of an email request, please contact ISSS; we would rather you be safe than sorry.
  • Double check the email address. At first glance, fraudulent messages can look like they’re from a legitimate company/organization, but on closer inspection are from a hotmail or other public email account.
  • Double check the URL of websites and links. Companies always use clear URLs like Scam sites and links usually have long addresses using special characters like &^%%%&*$£”
  • Anything sent from a government agency should have a .gov website. For example, the official IRS website is, NOT This applies to any communication from USCIS as well.
  • Look at the wording used. If it doesn’t read like a request from a legitimate company, it probably is not.
  • Avoid requests that sound vague, unlikely or too casual, such as “our database has been corrupted, please resend your details”, or “recent legislation means we require this information”.
  • Look for grammar and spelling mistakes. Scam emails are often electronically translated from different languages, resulting in obvious spelling errors and odd sentence structures.
Tax Season ScamEach year, millions of people receive an email “from the IRS” that looks very real and asks the person to click on a link in order to get their refund electronically deposited into their bank account.  The person is asked to enter his or her SSN/ITIN and bank information and told that the refund will be there in about 24 hours. Ironically, the GLACIER Tax Prep Support Center actually received one of the very official looking emails – “from the IRS”  - so ISSS wanted to share it with you (see screenshot below). Interestingly, you can tell that it is fake because they talk about getting a “tax return” not a “tax refund” – and the rest of the message is clearly written by a “non-tax person” (a tax professional would know how the IRS “speaks” and the proper tax references, as well as a non-US citizen and non-native English speaker).  FIRST – the IRS DOES NOT and CANNOT send emails to taxpayers.  Period. Not possible. NEVER going to happen.SECOND – if the person clicks on the link, a virus will likely be launched onto their computer. If they actually enter the information, it is likely that money will be deducted from their bank account within a matter of hours.OPT Scam 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/USDHS). 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 RiteAid. 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."


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Emily Dolezal
  • Created: 04/23/2013
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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