Protect Yourself from Scams

A scam is a scheme used to trick or cheat an individual and make a fast profit. Scammers are creative and persistent. They convince students to give them money or information that they use to steal from the victims. International student scams are increasing worldwide.

Watch Out for Common Scams


Individuals pretending to represent US government agencies, such as USCIS, ICE, IRS, etc. claim the student owes money and demands immediate payment. Scammers may threaten to arrest or deport the student. Scammers claim the student’s social security number or credit card was used in a crime. They ask for personal information such as full name, birth date, address, email address, passport number, or social security number to verify identity. They may demand payment to prevent arrest.


Scammers pretend to be from the student’s embassy or consulate claiming the student’s passport has been stolen and demand payment or personal information. They may use this information for identity theft or for a later scam.


This scam may start as an embassy or government imposter scam. Scammers claim the student has been implicated in a crime. They convince the students to pay a fine in order to avoid arrest. In order to make more money, the scammers convince the student to involve their family back home. Scammers reach out to the parents claiming the student was kidnapped and the family has to pay the ransom. They may even persuade the student to send photos or videos to convince their parents that they are being held against their will. Parents transfer money to the scammers.


Scammers claim you were in contact with someone who has COVID-19 and they need your personal information for contact tracing. They will use this information for identity theft.


Scammers pretend to be from a help desk at GMU, your credit card company or your bank. They ask for your login name and password to help you, but they will use this information to steal from you.


An online ad for the perfect apartment seems too good to be true! You call or email about it and they insist you need to send in a deposit immediately. Scammers create fake ads and convince you to send money before you have a chance to find out the apartment was fake.


The scammer offers students a discount on tuition, but the scammer insists they need to pay using their own credit card. The student verifies the payment and sends the scammer the tuition amount less the discount, thinking that he is saving money. Later, the fake credit card payment is rejected. The student still owes tuition and has lost their money.


Scammers email students promising employment or create a fake job ad on a third-party website. They may even use an email address and a company logo that seems legitimate. Scammers will ask that you complete an application and use your personal information for identity theft. They may offer to hire you, but overpay you for your services and ask that you reimburse them. Later, their fake check bounces and the student loses their money.


Someone appears to have paid you on accident and asks for the money back. However, the transaction was not legitimate and you will loose your own money if you send the scammer money.


Scammers develop a relationship over time, waiting until trust is established. According to FTC reports, romance scams involving tricking people into investments are a growing trend. This is especially true with cryptocurrency; accounting for 139 million in losses in 2021.

How to Spot a Scam

Be aware of these common scam techniques:

Requests for payment by gift cards: No reputable organization will ever ask for gift cards as payment.

Phishing: Scammers use phishing by sending an email or text pretending to be someone you trust; they then ask for the information they’ll use to steal from you.

Spoofing: Scammers are able to fool your phone’s caller ID through spoofing. The displayed number on the call or text will look like it belongs to a trusted organization. If you trust the number, they can trick and steal from you. They may even try to gain your trust by telling you to search online for an official number and then call you from that exact number by spoofing it.

Intimidation: Scammers will try to scare and threaten you. They may threaten legal action such as arrest or deportation. Scammers know what words to use to convince you.

Creating a crisis: Scammers are experts at convincing victims that this is an urgent and important situation. They convince students that they are in trouble, that they must act now to avoid arrest, deportation, or a higher fine.

Creating a sense of urgency: They convince you that you need to send payment or a deposit immediately for something important like an apartment, car, or laptop.

Request for personal information: Be very suspicious when someone calls or e-mails you and asks for any personal or financial information such as your address, passport number, G number, social security number, bank or credit account information, passwords, etc.

Additional Things to Look Out for:


Action to Take

Do not rely on the number on your phone; scammers spoof victims by making it look like a true phone number. Hang up, obtain the phone number from a trusted source, and call the organization directly from your own phone.

If you have a question about the legitimacy of an email, contact the ITS Support Center at (703) 993-8870 or

DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE INTIMIDATED BY PHONE. US officials will not threaten you over the phone. They typically contact you in writing, and write to you several times to make sure you receive any request they make. If someone tries to scare you by phone, do not give them personal information or payment. HANG UP and call OIPS (for calls about your immigration status) or the police (for calls that ask for personal or financial information).

NEVER SEND MONEY OR GIFT CARDS when asked by phone. HANG UP THE PHONE when a caller asks you for a gift card.

NO U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCY OR HONEST ORGANIZATION WILL EVER ASK FOR PERSONAL INFORMATION BY PHONE OR EMAIL. Be very suspicious when someone calls or e-mails you and asks for any personal or financial information.

NEVER give your personal information out over the phone or in an email. This includes your social security number, your G number, passport number, or any financial information such as account numbers, and other personal, immigration or banking information. Never give out your user IDs or passwords to anyone.

NEVER ACCEPT an offer to buy something or accept payment over the phone. If it sounds too good to be true, it is almost always a trick. Scammers may send you a fraudulent check; when you deposit the check, they then have your bank information, which they use to steal from you.

Be suspicious of surprise job offers by phone or email. Work with Career Services to find out about legitimate hiring practices in the United States. Use official websites to apply for jobs.


Government Imposter Scams:

Imposter Scams:

Tech Support Scams:

Stop Scam Calls:

How to Report International Scams:

COVID-19 Scams:


Please let OIPS know if you were a victim of a scam. Here are some steps you can take now:

  • If your bank or credit card was involved, contact them immediately. If you lost money to the scammer, file a report with campus or local police.
  • Consider placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit.
  • If you think you were contacted by a scammer impersonating a US government official, report the incident to OIPS and to GMU Police (703) 993-2810. The Federal Trade Commission also collects and shares scam reports with coordinating agencies.
  • If you have a question about the legitimacy of an email, contact the ITS Support Center at (703) 993-8870 or
  • For questions about COVID-19 contact tracing, call Student Health at (703) 246-2411.
  • For identity theft, follow these recommendations:
  • Internet scams can be reported through the FBI Crime Center.
  • The Social Security Administration has scam information and a reporting form on the Social Security website.



Additional Resources

OIPS Scam Awareness Workshop