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Immigration Scams

What Are Scams?

Scams are illegal schemes that aim to make money by deceiving people. Every year, scammers who claim to be from government agencies call or email international students and scholars to demand money and threaten them with arrest or deportation if they don’t pay.

Scammers will claim to be from some of the following U.S. government agencies:

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Social Security Administration Office (SSA)
  • Internal Revenue Services (IRS)

Scammers can be very aggressive and will use scare tactics to try to intimidate potential victims. Your safety and security are a priority and concern to ISSP, so please familiarize yourself with the information and resources listed below.

Common Scams:
types of phone scams
Phone Scams
  • Callers will say they are from a government or law enforcement agency (such as the IRS, USCIS, ICE, or the police).
  • They seem to have a lot of your personal information and threaten to have you deported or arrested if you don’t send money immediately.
  • May ask you to provide or confirm sensitive information (SSN, date of birth, address, bank or credit card number, etc.)
  • Scammers may inquire about your immigration record or documents (I-20/DS-2019, I-94, etc.) and make urgent demands for information or payment.
Phishing Email Scams
  • Emails will try to mislead you into thinking they are official U.S. government emails (using an email address ending with “.com,” “.org,” or “.net”)
  • Scammers will try to make the email seem legitimate and will often contain links to a fake website to steal your financial information, passwords, and other information that can lead to identity theft.
IRS Tax Scams
  • Scammers pretend to be IRS officials to get you to send them money
  • They claim you owe unpaid taxes and demand that you pay right now, usually with a gift card or prepaid debit card.
  • They threaten to have you arrested or deported if you don’t pay the unpaid taxes.
Things to remember
  • If someone contacts you and says that “if you do not pay them money, that you will be arrested or deported”, that is most likely a scam. Legitimate representatives from USCIS, the IRS, or other government agencies will never threaten you or ask you to pay money.
  • The U.S. government and immigration officials will NEVER request payment through gift cards, cash, wire transfers or cryptocurrency. They will also NEVER call or email to ask for credit/debit card information or bank routing numbers.
  • It is very rare for the U.S. government to contact a student or scholar by phone or email. Contact is usually made through mailed letters.
  • Never give personal or financial information to unknown callers – if the caller seems to have a lot of your personal information, do not give them any more information.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no,” hang up, or ignore requests from scam callers or suspicious emails.
  • Sometimes scammers will hide their true phone number (known as spoofing) and appear to be calling from a legitimate U.S. government phone number.
  • The website and email domain for an official US government organization should end with .gov. If it ends with .com, .net, or .org, then it’s most likely not the U.S. government.

Don’t be afraid to hang up the phone or ignore a suspicious email. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a government agency and you are not sure if it is legitimate: 

  • Contact ISSP immediately. Do not let the scammers scare you into giving them money. We will help to determine if it is a legitimate request.
  • If you encounter, or are a victim of an Immigration spoof call, you are also encouraged to report the incident to the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Immigration Tip Line.
  • You can also report scams to the W&M Police and W&M Information Technology.
list of additional resources
Additional Resources

Here are some helpful websites that warn against scams targeting international students and scholars and provide information to help determine if you are being scammed.