FBI Portland
Beth Anne Steele
(503) 460-8099
September 24, 2019

Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Scams Targeting International Students

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against scams targeting international students.

Kids are headed back to school, and for some students—the journey is more than just a walk down the street. This time of year, there are plenty of foreign exchange students arriving to spend time in American high schools and international students arriving to start programs at the university level. These visitors, however, are particularly vulnerable to fraudsters.

Our partners at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported that foreign exchange students are getting phone calls that appear to come from a government agency. The scammer will typically fake—or spoof—the caller ID so it looks as though the call is legitimate. Once the fraudster has captured the victim’s attention with the caller ID, the bad guy will attempt to bolster his credibility by revealing information about the person’s immigration status or details about the school program the student is attending.

The caller will then claim there is some sort of problem with the victim’s immigration documents or visa renewal. The fraudster will threaten the victim that he could be arrested or deported if he doesn’t immediately make a payment to correct the problem. The scammer will likely ask to be paid through a wire transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency.

But here are the facts—U.S. government officials aren’t going to ask for payment by phone—especially payments in those ways. They will also not ask you to confirm basic personal information, such as passport number, over the phone.

If you get a call or email like this and are still concerned about your immigration or visa status, call United States Citizenship and Immigration Services at at 800-375-5283 to verify the validity of the claims made.

As always, if you have been the victim of an online fraud, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.