Scams Targeting International Students

There are always bad people in the world who are trying to get your money. Don’t give them yours!

ALERT 08/16/217: A new scam at UWM:

There was an email sent out to various students Monday from “VistaPrint” offering students a way to earn money. the email said:

Work with us at the comfort of your home/school and earn $300/week at your convenience, Do email us back with your interest in this opportunity for more Information.


A student emailed the company and traded multiple emails and texts. The scammer then sent a check to the student for deposit into the student’s account for around $2000. DO NOT DEPOSIT THIS CHECK!!!!!!

When you deposit the check, the sender then has all of your necessary checking account information and will clean out your checking account.

The FBI has been contacted.

ALERT 06/15/217: A new scam at a school in IOWA:

Just a heads up, as we are not sure if this is a local or nationwide scam.  Our students have received altered I-797Cs emails from claiming to be USCIS.  These I-797Cs are requesting payment via phone to receive their permanent residency.  We’ve notified USCIS.
*** Please contact our office to speak to an immigration advisor if you receive an email like this. Our office number is 414-229-4846 to make an appointment.

Here are a couple of examples of scams that have happened to international  students:

An international student in New York City received a phone call from someone claiming to be from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The phone number matched the USCIS toll-free number. The caller claimed that on a recent trip abroad, the student had not filled out his I-94 card correctly and USCIS caught the error on the student’s pending OPT application. The caller had the student’s name, date of birth, address, phone number, and could confirm the last 4 digits of his I-94 number. The caller told the student that he needed to leave the United States immediately because a criminal case was pending against him.

When the student said he could not travel abroad currently, the caller said that “USCIS” could help him but only if he took action and sent money within the next two hours. The student was told that if he did not send money immediately, he would be deported within 24 hours. The student told the caller that he needed to call his International Students and Scholars Office to verify, but the caller said that if he hung up or even put the caller on hold, “USCIS” could not help him. The caller also told him that “USCIS” had already sent a court summons to his home address abroad but there had been no response. The caller then gave the student detailed instructions on how to send money via Western Union from a nearby drug store. The caller also told him that in order to fix the I-94 problem, he would need to pay additional money for a temporary A#, which he would then need to take to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at JFK Airport where the student would be assisted further. Unfortunately, the panicked student fell for the scam and ended up sending over $1,600 to “USCIS.” (Source: NAFSA)

A local student received a phone call from the FBI office in La Crosse, WI. The caller told the student that she was being investigated for tax fraud based on unpaid tuition tax. The student thought the call sounded like a scam and when she questioned the speaker he told her to google the number. The Google search confirmed that the number was the La Crosse FBI office. She was told that failure to pay would result in her being arrested and immediately deported. She began to comply. She was told to purchase gift cards and give the gift card numbers to the scammers. They immediately transferred the balances. She realized this was not appropriate and contacted the police, the bank, etc., but the money was gone.

Often these scammers know your name, address, phone number, sometimes they know your home country and other information. Sometimes they are using online school directories or using online or Facebook searches to find out more about you. This does not make them legitimate!

They may call from what seems to be a legitimate phone number. The scammers use easily accessible technology to SPOOF phone numbers from legitimate law enforcement offices. One of the techniques they use is to tell you to Google their number. The Google search will tell you that the number is a legitimate number. BE AWARE THAT THEY HAVE SPOOFED THESE PHONE NUMBERS. EVEN IF THE NUMBER IS LEGITIMATE, the person calling you is not.

If you receive a call from anyone threatening you and telling you that you owe money and your immigration status is threatened, you can hang up immediately.

Keep these things in mind:

  1. None of these offices (IRS, FBI, police) will call you regarding a tax or fines. If you get a call from someone saying they are from one of these agencies, follow the next two steps.
  2. Calmly ask what the call is about. Take specific notes about what the caller is saying and requesting.
  3. Politely request the agent’s information. Write down the agent’s full name, agency, and any identification number he or she can provide. Also request his or her direct phone number so you can call back. If the caller doesn’t want to give you this information, it is probably a scam. Hang up immediately.
  4. None of these offices will EVER require you to pay immediately and certainly DO NOT give any credit/debit card information over the phone. DO not give anyone your banking information. These offices will NEVER require you to purchase gift cards. They will NEVER ask you to go to Western Union. They will NEVER ask you how much money you have on hand. If they insist that you must pay today or you will arrested, deported, etc, it is probably a scam. Hang up immediately.
  5. You can hang up at any time. If it is a legitimate call, they will call back and leave a message.
  6. If the callers are threatening you, tell them that you will call them back with your attorney. They will usually tell you that you cannot disclose to anyone the discussion. This is a big RED FLAG. Hang up immediately.

Remember that you have rights. Don’t ever give out any personal information or money to someone who calls you unexpectedly. Immigration scams may be reported to USCIS. Please see the USCIS Avoid Scams Website.

If you have been the victim of a scam and have lost money to scammers, contact the police immediately and email

Tax Scams

In addition, please be wary of any phone calls or emails you may receive from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS website describes potential scams that could affect you. If you receive any suspicious emails from the IRS,  report them to the IRS.