Texas Tech University

Scam Alert for International Students

An international student at Texas Tech University is warning his fellow Red Raiders about a scam that cost him more than $50,000, in the hopes that they will not also fall victim to the scheme.

Posted Date: March 06, 2017

When the student was initially contacted by phone, the caller told him they were calling because the student had not updated his address. The call appeared to be coming from a valid United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) phone number, which convinced the student the call was legitimate.

The student was told the payments were refundable deposits. The scammers intimidated the student into making the payments using Visa gift cards and a bank transfer by telling him the payments were for a series of USCIS investigations of the student and his family, both in the U.S. and in his home country. He was instructed not to use the internet, phone calls or text messages and to only take calls and instructions from the callers posing as USCIS agents.

A Texas Tech employee learned what was happening and warned the student it was a scam. The student then reported the fraud to authorities, which lasted 12 days and ultimately cost the student $57,000.

The USCIS is aware of this type of scam and has posted a warning on its website.

Below are some of the ways faculty, staff and students can protect themselves from this and similar schemes.

  • If someone claiming to be a government official or law enforcement officer calls and tells you there is a problem with your immigration or visa, hang up and report the call, even if it appears to be from a legitimate government number.
  • Many times, the caller will ask for sensitive personal or financial information and threaten deportation, arrest or other negative consequences if the victim does not comply. Do not provide this information and avoid discussing this type of information in any public setting.
  • Remember that USCIS officials will never ask for payment over the phone or in an email. In addition, USCIS does not accept payment from Western Union or Paypal.
  • Remember that these scammers rely on intimidation and the appearance of legitimacy to successfully victimize others. They may sound knowledgeable about the immigration process and more than likely, will have done research so they are familiar with the area in which the victim lives, including locations of nearby banks or stores where wire transfers, money exchange, prepaid credit cards, gift cards and money orders are available.
  • If you have a question about your immigration record, call the National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 or make an InfoPass appointment at https://my.uscis.gov/appointment. You can also use myUSCIS to find up-to-date information about your application process.