Recognizing Scams and Fraud

Be aware of scam and fraud

"You have won a vacation package to Las Vegas!  To receive this award please pay a $1,000 deposit."

"Hello, I am calling from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  You are subject to deportation.  You must pay a $2,000 fine RIGHT NOW!"

These are the common scam calls/emails that international students receive.  The information below is to help you to protect yourself and warn your friends and family. 

Scammers, often pretending to be from the federal government, use scare tactics to trick international students into paying them money.  See Scammers go after international students’ money on the U.S. Federal Trade  Commissions (FTC)' website.  According to FTC:

"The caller typically knows about a student’s immigration status and the program or school they’re attending. He’ll say there’s a problem with the student’s immigration documents or visa renewal. And then he’ll demand immediate payment, often thousands of dollars, for a fee or bogus immigration bond. These callers have made threats, including arrest or deportation, if the students don’t pay, and they ask to be paid with gift cards (like Google Play or iTunes) or a cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin)"

Remember, the federal government will never call a student and ask them to pay for "fines" over the phone and/or through gift cards (Amazon, itunes, Google play, etc) of any sort.

The scammer might speak in your native language to make it sounds more convincing.  Contact the F-1 International Student Advisor at OIP if you are told there is a problem with your F-1 status.  The F-1 advisors are responsible to monitor your F-1 status and have full access to your SEVIS record and I-20.  If we are to call you for your F-1 status issues, we will always state our full name and job title at the beginning of the phone call.

Students may receive phone calls from individuals, claiming to be part of Internal Revenue Service (IRS), threatening international students for unpaid taxes and jail time.  Some scammer would ask you to provide your FULL nine-digit of social security number (SSN) over the phone. 

NEVER give anyone your social security number in full over the phone.  Also, no one ever pays taxes over the phone or through gift cards.

International students may bear the burden of finding housing while abroad.  Scammer may ask you to make deposits while you are in your home country without providing you with any rental contract.  A few things to remember:

  • You should never pay a security deposit, fee, or first month’s rent before you’ve signed a rental contract.
  • Don’t rent an apartment that you are unable to see before signing the contract.  
  • Do not provide a photocopy of your passport to the "landlord".  

Further reading:

If you get any phone calls like the ones mentioned above, do not respond. Stop talking to the person on the phone.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Do not provide any personal information, even if the scammer who called you have your personal information, such as your full name, birth date, social security number, etc, do not confirm the information.
  • Speak to someone you trust about the call. You can also contact the F-1 International Student Advisors about the call you received, even if the call is not F-1 status related.  Often times international students figure out that the call was a scam only after talking with someone else about it.  Talking about scam calls with your friends could help other in your community.  
  • If you are convinced the call is real, make sure to ask for the caller's full name, title, agency, and call back number so you can either follow up if the case is legitimate, or report the scam to the police.

Phishing is a type of online scam where scammers send an email that appears to be from SF State or a legitimate company and ask you to provide sensitive information.  Read SF State’s Information Technology Services (ITS)’s Phishing Guide and learn how to protect your personal email and password information.   

You can found helpful information about the uprising scam calls and emails.  Read the information below and share with your friends:


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