Beware! Hackers Are Trying to Scam International Students

International Students Scammed by Hackers

Posted by Krati Khandelwal on 14 July 2016 |

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Scammers are Increasingly Targeting International Students

international students scammedOver the past few years, scams targeted at international students have steadily increased—and many of them involve technology. In fact, this is something I have personal experience with. Here is my story…

Not too long ago, I was sitting on campus enjoying the wonderful weather and working on my daily assignment, when suddenly my phone started to ring. I casually looked at the screen and was soon overcome with panic when I saw the call was from 911.

With fear in my eyes, I picked up the phone and said “hello.” A man angrily barked “Is this Krati?” Before I could reply, he then continued, telling me my paperwork was incomplete, and therefore, my stay in U.S. was terminated immediately.

I couldn’t really understand what was happening or what the call was even about, so when the man asked me for my date of birth and my current address, I gave them to him right away. Then, he said that he would be there in 20 minutes to arrest me and deport me back to my country.

All I could think to myself was “what can I do in 20 minutes to prove my innocence?” I couldn’t talk to my parents and tell them what was happening because they were asleep in another country (due to the time difference). I decided to reach out to my friends and tell them about the situation.

While I was calling them, I received another call from 911. This time the man said that if I gave him $3,000, he could restart my visa process so that I wouldn’t have to leave the county.

This time instead of panicking, I got suspicious. I was sure the police wouldn’t ask for money in exchange for some documentation. At this point, I managed to gather some courage and go to my university’s international office and report the incidence.

The university staff informed me that this wasn’t the first time an international student faced this kind of situation and I shouldn’t be afraid because it turns out, the whole thing was a scam!

After listening to me, the staff alerted all the university’s international students about the scam and informed them that 911 or any other police number would never call and ask for money.

Tips to Protect International Students from Fraudulent 911 Calls

It’s important that your college or university reaches out to its international students and informs them about the scam and what they need to know to stay safe. Many campuses are including the following information on their websites:

  • Do not send money. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) personnel would never ask you to transfer money using any money transfer methods or through cards, nor would they call you and talk for hours.
  • The caller might already know your date of birth, your name and /or part of your Social Security Number (SSN), but do not give them any additional information.
  • Callers use legal terms to confuse students, so don’t be scared.
  • Callers may tell you that you should not tell anyone else about this “federal” issue
  • Stay as calm as possible, and tell them you are going to call the police and then hang up.

Threatening Phone Calls Aren’t the Only Kind of Scam

Unfortunately, threatening phone calls aren’t the only kind of scam hackers are using against international students. The USCIS has identified several others your campus should make students aware of including:

  • Pay By Phone: USCIS will not ask students to pay fees over the phone. Students should pay immigration fees with a check or money order. And on the “Pay to the Order of” line of the check students should write “Department of Homeland Security.”
  • Winning the Visa Lottery: The U.S. Department of State will never email students about being selected in the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, often known as the green card lottery. Students should be advised to steer clear of these kind of emails.
  • Scam Websites: USCIS forms are always free and available to students on https://www.uscis.gov/forms. Students can also get the forms by calling 1-800-870-3676 or ordering them over the phone.
  • Fake Job Offers: Students should never be asked to pay to get a job. Also, before they accepting any kind of job students should make sure that they have a valid OPT or CPT card, and that they’ve talked to their internal office coordinator before accepting any kind of job.

Increase Awareness and Encourage Reporting on Your Campus

Remind Them Not to Feel Embarrassed

Many students do not report that they are the victim of a scam because they are afraid of what other people might think about them and how silly they are for falling into the trap. But, it can happen to anyone irrespective of gender, sex, age or education level. The scammers always make it look very legitimate, so students shouldn’t feel shy or embarrassed.

Encourage Them to Report the Scam

Remind students that even if they don’t think the impact of the scam is large enough, they should still report it as it will help save others from being the victims of the crime.

Help Them Spread Awareness

To help students protect each other from these scams, they should be encouraged to share their doubts with others and educate themselves about common scams. There are websites like https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us/ where they can familiarize themselves with the different scams that have been reported near your campus.

Key Takeaway

As more and more hackers target international students, it’s vital for your campus to educate students about the various scams and encourage them to come forward. And perhaps by doing this, other students won’t have to experience the panic and confusion I felt when I was the victim of a 911 scam.

If you want more information on our cybersecurity training for your campus’s faculty and staff, schedule a demo today.

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