This page is intended to inform international students of scams that our office is aware of. Each time we learn of a new scam, we will add a description here. If you learn of a scam targeting international students that is not listed here, please report it by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scams Targeting International Students
Several WSU international students have recently reported receiving phone calls from individuals claiming to be U.S. government agency officials. Though the specifics of the caller’s story vary, the general message is the same. The caller tells the student that the student has somehow violated U.S. law and to correct the violation, they must immediately pay a large amount of money, anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, or law enforcement will arrest the student. These callers may have private information about the student. They typically demand a specific form of payment such as gift cards, Western Union money order, or wire transfers. They often claim to be with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) though one caller said he was with the United States Capital Police. Using a technique called “Caller ID spoofing,” they may even appear to be calling from legitimate government agencies.
If you receive a call like this, we urge you to say “No, thank you” and hang up immediately. The IRS, USCIS, and other U.S. agencies NEVER ask for any form of payment or personal information over the phone. Students are encouraged to spread the word among their friends. Please report any suspicious phone calls you receive to the Office of International Education.
Scam Affecting Chinese Students Studying in the U.S. & Australia
Many Chinese students studying in the U.S. and Australia have recently been victims of a multi-phase scam that begins when they receive a phone call from someone speaking Mandarin pretending to be an employee of DHL or a police officer or investigator from the Chinese government. Read the following to make sure you don't become a victim:
Phase 1: Chinese student (victim) receives a phone call from someone speaking Mandarin pretending to be an employee of DHL or a police officer from the Chinese government. The caller says they have intercepted a package (with the victim’s name and address on it) containing fake passports, debit cards, etc. In another version of the scam, the caller says that the victim’s bank account has been compromised and has been used for criminal activities.
Phase 2: The victim is "transferred" to someone pretending to be with the Shanghai Police who tells the victim a scary story about a large, long running money laundering case. This fake police officer then asks the victims to give their Chinese ID number. (As you are probably aware, the Chinese ID # is equivalent to the Social Security Number (SSN) in the U.S. You should never give either those numbers to other people, especially over the phone. Once a scammer has your Chinese ID #, they can use it to hack your bank account in China.) This is the point at which the students should refuse to give the scammer their Chinese ID and hang up, but if they comply with the scammer’s request, the scam continues with phases 3 and 4.
Phase 3: The caller encourages the victim to fly to China to complete an official statement. They may warn you not to contact any other people including your parents because you are involved in a “criminal case” saying that anyone (friends or family) who is in contact with you may also be in danger.
Phase 4: The scammer then contacts the student’s family members or friends claiming that the student has had some sort of serious emergency like a serious car accident, kidnapping, etc. To make themselves sound legitimate, the scammer will provide detailed information to the family about the student. And because the student has been warned not to be in contact with their family, the student’s family will not be able to reach the student to verify what the scammer has told the family. Because they can't contact the student, many families conclude that something terrible has happened to their child and so they wire money to the scammer to “help” the student with their emergency.
For more information, see this article from April 2018: https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/news/scammers-targeting-chinese-community-in-australia