As an international student in the U.S., it is important to be aware of common scams and fraud.
Scammers commonly use intimidation and the threat of immigration penalties to extort large sums of money from international students. Scammers may claim to be from a government or law enforcement agency, and sometimes use personal information gained illegally to convince a student that an immediate payment is required. Students who are new to the U.S., unfamiliar with the English language, or unsure of how to respond, may be especially vulnerable to these attempts.
Important: U.S. government agents will never ask for immediate payment of a fee by phone.
Threatening Phone Calls and Intimidating Social Media Messages
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) alerts international students to take precautions. If you receive threatening phone calls or intimidating messages on social media, especially one from someone claiming to be a government official, DHS suggests:
- Do not give any personal or financial information
- Try to collect contact information from the caller
- End the conversation immediately if threats and intimidation persist
- Contact Boston Police Department
- Contact the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line
Students arriving in Boston from abroad may be vulnerable to predatory housing scams, including fraudulent housing postings, renters who require large rental deposits in advance, and unexpected increases in fees. We would advise you to search for housing with reputable realtors, and to use caution if you are searching for rooms or housing on classified ads or websites such as craigslist.com
For further information on common housing fraud schemes, as well as tenant/renters rights, see:
Social Security Scams and Identity Theft
Another type of fraud is identity theft, which occurs commonly by gaining illegal access to a person's Social Security number.
See the following resources below prepared by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS):
- Publication 10064: Identify Theft and your Social Security Number
- What Should I do if I think Someone is Using my Social Security Number
Additional information can also be found on the ECPD site:
Direct Email Contact from Government Agencies
Be cautious of any direct email and phone communication from someone claiming a government agent.
However, there are a few times when you may receive legitimate communication from a government agency, including:
Notice of SEVIS Fee Nonpayment
Notice of I-515A Admission
F-1 students or J-1 exchange visitors who present incomplete documentation to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, may be granted a 30-day admission to the U.S. with a Form I-515A. In this case, the student or exchange visitor may receive a follow up email from US DHS outline instructions for resolving status and extending the 30-day admission.
Invitation to use SEVP Portal
Students who are approved for F-1 Optional Practical Training should expect to receive direct email from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) with an invitation to enroll in the SEVP Portal. The SEVP Portal allows students on OPT to self-report information to meet the required OPT reporting requirements. This email should be sent to the email address reflected in your SEVIS record (usually your Emerson email).
Communication from the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program
J-1 Exchange Visitors in the U.S. may receive direct email communication from the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor Program highlighting exchange initiatives and opportunities for J-1 program alumni to participate in events. These emails should be sent to the email address reflected in your SEVIS record (usually your Emerson email).
If you receive another type of email from someone claiming to be a government source, feel free to contact OISA to ask whether the email appears to be legitimate.
Reporting a Scam
For additional information on how to spot and report common scams, see:
- US Government general: Common Scams and Frauds
- Reporting an immigration scam:
- Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI): Common Fraud Schemes
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Scam Alerts
We urge Emerson students to be vigilant about these risks and to take precautions in sharing any personal or financial information with any suspicious source.