If you ever have questions about scams or fraud, please contact OIE staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While at WU we hope that you will not be contacted by someone attempting to “scam” or defraud you of your money or identity. As is true anywhere in the world, there are people who attempt to take advantage of international students and scholars, but with a little knowledge you can learn how to identify a scam and avoid falling victim to the scheme.
These videos give you some examples of how these scams, often by phone, work:
APEX Police, North Carolina: https://www.facebook.com/
UW Madison Police: https://www.facebook.com/
The University of California Davis produced a short video that presents this topic in an easy to understand way. Some of the information is specific to their city and campus, but it's still worth watching to understand how these scams, especially by phone, can work. See the video here.
NEW! COVID-19 related scams:
One of the things that helps in the spreading of COVID-19 is the use of contract tracing. When a person reports a case of infection, people hired as contract tracers work as health detectives to try to find out the places they've been and the people they may have come into contact with to try to encourage those people to also minimize their contact with other people, to quarantine in their homes for a specified period of time, and to seek health care if needed.
It is common for a call from a legitimate contact tracer to be preceded by a text message alerting you to an upcoming call. It is NOT common for them to send you a text with a link -- don't click on links.
It is also normal for them to ask you your name and some of your identifying information. It is NOT common for them to ask you for your US social security number. Some scammers are posing as contact tracers and then asking for payment information. A REAL contact tracer will never ask you for payment information.
Read more here.
Common Scam Themes:
Study in the States provides some general advice to international students here.
Those who perpetrate scams are very creative and new scams are emerging all of the time. Here are some of the most common:
- The caller ID or phone number looks like a government agency or police.
- A claim is made that you owe money or have committed some kind of fraud.
- A caller or letter will use fear, threats, and intimidation to get what they want.
- A scam requires immediate action.
- A scam includes punishment (often threats of deportation or arrest) for not acting immediately.
- A scammer will keep you on the phone for a long time and will not let you hang up to call back later.
- A scammer will use lots of legal-sounding language such as “federal regulations” and “visa fee” to sound as legitimate as possible.
Important for Students and Scholars to Know
Keep these important points in mind at all time.
- Department of Homeland Security may call you regarding your SEVIS record, but they will never ask for money over the phone.
- The IRS (Internal Revenue Service = taxes) will not contact you by phone.
- Ask for a caller's name, ID badge, and phone number and request that you call them back.
- Do not cash checks that arrive in the mail unexpectedly.
- Do not sign contracts without reading them and fully understanding the content.
- It's a good idea to check how much of your information is public, such as your phone number and address.
- Third Party tax forms attempt to collect the refund that is rightfully yours.
- Rental scams where your deposit money is taken and no one meets you with the keys to move in.
- Online scams when purchasing items on Craigslist or EBay or through PayPal.
- Calls demanding an “international student tax” or “visa fee” which directs the victim to wire money or buy gift cards.
- A website charging fees to enter the Green Card Lottery.
- Employment scams that ask you to accept and transfer small amounts of money to test your account and then seek larger amounts from you and disappear.
Report to the OIE or Campus Safety
It is helpful if you report any scams or fraud you encounter to the OIE so that we can alert all of the international students on our campus. Campus Safety is also a good place to go to see if there have been other reports by other students, including US students.
- If you receive a concerning or suspicious call.
- If you get an email that looks like it could be coming from WU but appears suspicious (wrong URL for WU, misspellings of names, etc.).
- If a letter arrives in the mail which includes threats for not acting.
- If an employer is acting unethically by requiring you to pay money to receive a job offer, or an employment agency is offering to create fake credentials.
Other Resources for More Information
To learn more:
- Federal Trade Commission (several languages)
- Study in the States advice to international students
- USCIS website on common scams and how to avoid a scam
- WITS (Willamette Integrated Technology Services) has resources on their page related to phishing (suspicious email). If this link doesn't work, you can get to the link from here.
- Look for emails related to scams (including phishing) from OIE, Campus Safety, and WITS.