Warning–Scam Targets International Students

July 31, 2013

Warning – Scam Targets International Students

ISS has learned of very sophisticated scams which have surfaced in the eastern and western United States specifically targeting international students and scholars.  Please read this message to learn about potential scams and to avoid becoming a victim. The following stories came from our NAFSA Listserv of international educators across the United States:          

Case 1

“This week, an international student in New York City received a phone call from someone claiming to be from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS/USDHS). The phone number matched the USCIS toll-free number. The caller claimed that on a recent trip abroad, the student had not filled out his I-94 card correctly and USCIS caught the error on the student’s pending OPT application.

 The caller had the student’s name, date of birth, address, phone number, and could confirm the last 4 digits of his I-94 number. The caller told the student that he needed to leave the United States immediately because a criminal case was pending against him.

When the student said he could not travel abroad currently, the caller said that “USCIS” could help him but only if he took action and sent money within the next two hours. The student was told that if he did not send money immediately, he would be deported within 24 hours. The student told the caller that he needed to call his International Students and Scholars Office to verify, but the caller said that if he hung up or even put the caller on hold, “USCIS” could not help him. The caller also told him that “USCIS” had already sent a court summons to his home address abroad but there had been no response.

The caller then gave the student detailed instructions on how to send money via Western Union from a nearby RiteAid. The caller also told him that in order to fix the I-94 problem, he would need to pay additional money for a temporary A#, which he would then need to take to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at JFK Airport where the student would be assisted further. Unfortunately, the panicked student fell for the scam and ended up sending over $1,600 to “USCIS.”

Case 2

A J-1 Research Scholars also came in around 4pm on Wednesday stating he had received a similar call.  He was told to bring $1450 (and later to send it via Greendot Moneypak voucher) to the “U.S. High Commission New Delhi” immediately.  The call came from a USCIS number, and the person refused to give a name, but did give an ID number.  I wondered if they were local, because they gave him the address of a local CVS Pharmacy to buy the Moneypak and said it was a “popular” location to purchase them.  Fortunately, he came to me right away and I informed him it was a scam, so he did not send any money.  He was expecting a call back from the individual, but has not been contacted again. The scariest part of this scam is that the con artist’s call back number on the speed dial was the USCIS number (Tina´s message)!  I usually rely on the call back number to identify a legit call. It is apparent that the caller ID had been spoofed (hijacked).

Case 3

“A J1 scholar got a call from “US High Commission” today, claiming he was missing an “I Security number” on column 20 of his DS2019. They gave him his I-94 number (but it was only the OMB number) and then said he had to take the next flight back to India, pay $1450 and go to the New Delhi consulate to get this I Security Number. Alternatively, if he didn’t want to go back to India, he could pay $1450 via MoneyPaks and they would tell him what his I Security number would be in 15 days.”

“Luckily for him, he told his 2 other J1 lab mates about this, and they marched him over to the Police Dept and my office. He had already purchased the MoneyPaks ($1500 worth). While he was in my office, the scammer called back, and hung up when I got on the phone. However, the call back number was to the USCIS Customer Service line!”

___________________________________

More about MoneyPak scams can be found at:  https://www.moneypak.com/ProtectYourMoney.aspx

USCIS has been notified by and the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have been notified and are looking into the cases.  They ask all such scams or suspected scams to be reported.

If you been a victim of an immigration services scam or know of a scam that you wish to report, you can go to the USCIS Avoid Scams website: http://www.uscis.gov/avoidscams.  To report an immigration scam:  http://www.uscis.gov/avoidscams/reportimmigrationscams

Snopes is another scam reporting site: http://www.snopes.com/.

Another great site containing educational materials on avoiding scams is http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem…

Always come in to our ISS office, CLO 176, if you have an experience like the ones listed or you feel that someone has tried to give you fraudulent or questionable information or requests!  If you have been a victim, please notify the police.  This is a crime!