An increase in scam phone calls has been reported among international students in the United States. Scam means a fraudulent scheme performed by a dishonest individual, group, or company in an attempt obtain money or something else of value. Remember IRS, USCIS, or Department of Homeland Security will NEVER ask you to pay for anything over the phone.


How to know if it is a scam call?

1 . If they claim to be a government entity…

Scammers will pretend to be calling from the Internal Revenue Services (taxes), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or natural gas/electricity companies.

2 .They may know a lot about you…

The caller may know your name, even other information about you, like school, country of origin, student ID, address ect. Keep in mind, nowadays, it is not hard to get others’ personal information from Google or social media like Facebook. Knowing these does not mean they are real government staff.

3 . They will say you are in big trouble…

These criminals will tell students that they are in legal trouble for failing to pay their income taxes correctly or that something is wrong with their immigration status. Scammers will threaten students with jail or deportation from the United States.

4 . If they sound angry and threaten you with serious consequences…

Scammers use psychological tactics like speaking quickly, yelling or talking forcefully, threatening the student that a police officer will arrive at their door within a few minutes if they hang up, and telling the student that if they tell anyone that they received the call or ask anyone to help them on the call that the “deal will be off” and they will go to jail.

How will they get the money?

They will attempt to get students to go to Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Target, Best Buy and other stores and instruct them to buy thousands of dollars worth of gift cards (iTunes and Steam cards seem to be the most popular). The scammer will then tell the student to read the account information from the card to them over the phone and steal the money from the cards.

About these fake calls

  1. These are not real calls!! These are criminals who are trying to scare you in to giving them thousands of dollars.
  2. More than likely, the scammers are not located in the United States or even North America. They have the ability to route their calls through legitimate looking U.S. phone numbers or even the IRS or DHS phone numbers.

If you receive a call like this you should:

  • hang up immediately and report the call to the MSU Police or East Lansing Police. Save the caller ID number so that you can report where the call came from.
  • tell the caller that you will speak with a lawyer or your international student adviser. This will signal to the caller that you are empowered and you know that this is a scam. They may yell at you or threaten you. Just hang up. Once they know that you understand that they are scammers, they will not likely call you back.

Final Reminders on Scam Phone Calls

  • NEVER give personal information, immigration information, credit card numbers, bank account numbers or gift cards to anyone over the phone
  • ignore threats of arrest or jail time – it’s not real!!
  • report calls right away to the MSU or East Lansing Police
  • the IRS, USCIS, or Department of Homeland Security will NEVER ask you to pay for anything over the phone

See how others are dealing with the scam calls

Here’s an amusing video filmed by the Eau Claire County, Wisconsin Police Department that went viral showing a police officer calling the scammer back to show everyone what the scammers say to try to get people to give them money (from CBS News, March 24, 2017):

cop scammer.JPG

Here’s an individual who hosts a YouTube Channel called “I Reck Scammers.” He has filmed many different types of scam calls to show people what the scammers say and how they say it. Some have some bad language (swearing) so watch these in the privacy of your room or with headphones on. Enjoy and feel empowered!


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