Scams used Against International Students
The United States Department of Homeland Security and other US government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service and local and federal law enforcement officials (police), continue to see an increase in the number of scams targeting unsuspecting international students. These scammers contact international students in different ways, often by making threatening phone calls or leaving intimidating messages on social media. The trend was also featured in recent news articles.
If you have been contacted by someone claiming to be a representative of a US or a foreign government agency, don't assume that the communication is actually from a government employee. Even if the person has some personal information about you (something about your immigration status, where you go to school, etc...) or the caller ID is a government telephone number, it may still be a scam. There are ways for people to get information about you and there are ways to trick your caller ID.
If the person that is contacting you claims to be a US or foreign government employee/official and:
- Uses threatening language and attempts to frighten you with threats.
- Tries to get you to provide personal information (especially passwords or bank account information)
- Urgently demands any type of payment (including such things as gift cards at local retail stores)
- Demands quick action, before you have a chance to think about it.
- Demands that you don't speak to anyone about the situation or their demands (family, friends)
IT IS A SCAM. Hang up. Do research on the internet on common current scams. Talk to friends and family about the incident, or your international student counselor. If they continue to call and make threats, block the number.
Government officials in the US or abroad will never make threatening calls and urgently demand money over the phone or things such as gift cards. The IRS, for example, always contacts people first by regular mail.
When in doubt, assume that the threatening phone call or other communication is a scam. Investigate them. Ask for extensive contact and verification information that you can check out before responding to their demands or threats for money or gift cards. If they refuse to provide you any information that you can use to confirm their identity and continue to threaten you, hang up and block the number. It is a scam. When in doubt you can also contact your international student counselor at Texas Tech University.
Here are some helpful government websites that warn against these scams and provide information to help you determine if you are being scammed (Please note that all of these government websites are .gov sites. This is what you should look for to determine whether or not you are viewing an official government website or not).
Department of Homeland Security's Study in the States web page that talks about scams targeting international students.
US Immigration and Citizenship Services
Internal Revenue Services (IRS) video on common IRS scams
The Federal Trade Commission page that talks about scams involving people pretending to be government employees:
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - Page that lists common scams: