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Scams & Frauds

Be aware of financial scams! There have been many reports of scams targeting students and other members of the University community. During this time of uncertainty and added concern for many foreign nationals in the US, some criminals are hoping to capitalize on those fears for their own gain! These experiences can be very threatening and overwhelming, so it is helpful to know in advance what is legal and appropriate.

Common Scenario: A targeted individual will receive a call to their personal phone number, where the caller identifies themselves as an officer from a government agency. Scammers have misrepresented themselves as officers for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), state or county police departments, or other government agencies or businesses. Most scammers will now use a spoofed phone number, so it appears that they are calling from a legitimate phone number associated with that agency. The caller will then indicate that there is a problem with the individual’s record or status in the US and that immediate resolution is required. In most cases, the caller will threaten arrest and/or deportation if the individual fails to follow their directions. Some will ask for personal financial information; others will require the purchase of a prepaid debit card (Visa/MasterCard, iTunes, Amazon, etc.) and to give those details over the phone. If the target hangs up or ignores the threats, some scammers will call back repeatedly, and may spoof their caller ID to appear as 911 or other law enforcement. If the victim asks to contact someone for help and call back later, they are usually told that any delay will result in additional fines, legal action, arrest, etc. The scammers aim to use intimidation and lack of familiarity with US government practices to get immediate access to information or funds. While these tactics are completely illegal, they can be very difficult to trace and enforce! 

Therefore, the best defense is to understand your rights and what approach a government agency would actually take. Please consider the following: 

  • US government agencies will NEVER request immediate payment or financial information by telephone or email. A legitimate request will always allow for a future deadline and contact information in case there are follow-up questions.
  • Any caller that claims immediate arrest, deportation, or that police are already on their way to your residence is fraudulent.
  • If you have questions or concerns, a legitimate inquiry will allow you to get additional information or support before making a reply. A caller that denies you the ability to reach out to ISO or another resource for guidance is fraudulent.
  • Government fees will never be paid via a prepaid vendor card or over the phone in this way. In fact, payment requests will always come in writing and processed through a secure ‘.gov’ website, if they can be paid electronically.

  • Never provide personal or financial information in response to a telephone call or e-mail without first obtaining written verification from a reliable source of the requester’s legitimacy.  

Please use caution if you are the victim of a scam like this and be sure to report the incident when you can! Additional information can be found through the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website: www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts. Be confident to advocate for yourself and do not hesitate to contact ISO if you are unsure!