Scams and Safety

Many international students and scholars studying in the U.S. have recently been victims of multi-phase scams from individuals impersonating employees of DHL, U.S. immigration and law enforcement officers, or investigators from foreign governments. For more information about scams targeting international students and scholars, please see this news report, blog from the Federal Trade Commission, blog from DHS, and ‘Scams Targeting Students’ on the USCIS website.

Common Traits of Scams

  • A phone call, email, or in-person request from a stranger that requires immediate action.
  • A call with caller ID or phone number information that appears to be from a government agency or law enforcement.
  • A claim is made that you owe money or have committed some kind of violation.
  • Scams can threaten punishment (e.g. threats of deportation or arrest) for not acting immediately.
  • Scammers use fear, threats, and intimidation to get something from you.
  • Scammers will keep you on the phone for a long time and will not let you hang up to call back later.

Common Types of Scams:

  • Housing Scams
    These appear as online advertisements for housing on websites such as craigslist.org. The contact person of an advertisement will insist that you send them money to secure an apartment, even though you have not visited the property in person. They can even send you a false lease agreement. When you show up to the apartment, it is not available and the apartment management is not aware of your payment nor your signed lease. If you are required to wire money for housing, please be sure the housing post is legitimate.

    Check the address of the posting to ensure it is a residential building with vacancies. Try to arrange a video call to confirm it is a real address or see the unit in person before sending a payment.
  • Phone Scams
    Callers may say that they are from University Police, the IRS, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or another government agency. Caller ID may even appear to show a legitimate U.S. government agency phone number. They may already have some personal information about you and say that there is a problem with your Social Security number or U.S. visa. They may threaten deportation if you do not send money or make a payment.

    Do not follow their instructions or provide them with any information. If someone claims to be from a government agency, ask for their full name, job title, department, email, and phone number. If they do not provide their information, hang up immediately. Contact the Dashew Center for advice before responding.
  • Street Scams
    Someone will approach you asking if you can help them. They often have stories about sick family members or urgent situations that require money. They will walk with you or offer to drive you to the nearest ATM machine. They will offer to pay you back and give you their contact information.

    Do not engage with strangers asking you for money, even if their situation sounds dire and you want to help. If you do provide them with money, do not expect that they will pay you back. Never enter a stranger’s car.
  • Phishing Scams
    Phishing is a type of scam typically carried out through unsolicited email and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites and lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information, like your date of birth and Social Security number.

    Do not reply to emails you suspect are phishing scams and do not open any attachments or click on any links from suspicious emails. They can contain malicious code that may infect your computer or mobile phone.
  • Employment Scams
    Scammers will email you offers for employment or placement in internship or job opportunities for a fee. In one example, students are offered super shopper jobs, where scammers send a check and a large list of items to be purchased for them. They request that you ship the items to them the next day and want a report of your experience at each store. Three days later, the check they sent you bounces.

    Be suspicious of unsolicited employment offers, especially if you did not submit an employment application to work for that employer. Do not click on any links within these emails- they can contain malicious code that may infect your computer or mobile phone.

For other types of common fraud schemes, please see the FBI’s website and the IRS’ website.

Please remember:

  • The Dashew Center staff and U.S. government officials (e.g. from the IRS or U.S. immigration, etc.) will never request your credit card number, Social Security number, or banking information over the phone.
  • If you ever question the authenticity or propriety of a phone call, you should ask for a name and telephone number to call the person back.
  • You may consult with the Dashew Center about any suspicious phone calls or emails you receive requesting your personal information.

If you encounter a fraud attempt, please report the incident to the Dashew Center at fraudreport@saonet.ucla.edu and the appropriate agencies below: