Avoiding Common Scams

While at Mount Holyoke we hope that you will not be contacted by someone attempting to “scam” or defraud you of your money. As is true anywhere in the world, there are people who attempt to take advantage of international students, but with a little knowledge you can learn how to identify a scam and avoid falling victim to the scheme. The tricks that scammers use are very sophisticated, and it is easy for anyone to fall victim. Here are some tips for protecting yourself from scams:

Common Scam Themes

  • The caller ID or phone number looks like a government agency or police.
  • A claim is made that you owe money or have committed some kind of fraud.
  • A caller or letter will use fear, threats, and intimidation to get what they want.
  • A scam requires immediate action taken by only you and includes punishment (often threats of deportation or arrest) for not acting immediately.
  • A scammer will keep you on the phone for a long time and will not let you hang up to call back later.
  • A scammer will use lots of legal-sounding language such as “federal regulations” and “visa fee” to sound as legitimate as possible.
  • Calls demanding an “international student tax” or “visa fee” which directs the victim to wire money or buy gift cards.
  • A website charging fees to enter the Green Card Lottery

Important for Students to Know

  • Department of Homeland Security may call you regarding your SEVIS record, but they will never ask for money over the phone.
  • Ask for a caller's name, ID badge, and phone number and request that you call them back.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not call people regarding taxes – they only communicate through the mail on official letterhead
  • Do not provide your Social Security Number (SSN) over the phone or by email. Keep your documents in a safe place. You do not need to carry your card around with you.
  • Do not provide your bank account number or information over email or the phone.

Report to the McCulloch Center and Campus Police

  • If you receive a concerning, threatening or suspicious call.
  • If a letter arrives in the mail which includes threats for not acting.
  • If an employer is acting unethically by requiring you to pay money to receive a job offer, or an employment agency is offering to create fake credentials.

Remember: when one person reports a scam, we can alert all of our international students. You will not be penalized for reporting a scam. Reporting a suspected scam will not negatively affect your immigration status. You have the right to protect yourself against identity theft and fraud.

More Information About Scams