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Beware of Scams and Identity Theft

International students and scholars should be aware of and protect themselves scams and identity theft. Scams are illegal attempts to get you to pay money or give up your personal information through deceit and fraud. International students and scholars are frequent targets of scams across the US, and individual victims have lost thousands of dollars. By educating yourself, you can avoid becoming the victim of a scam or identity theft. Please read below for more information about how to recognize and protect yourself from scams.

Common Scams

Scams can include immigration and visa scams, tax scams, Social Security scams, and apartment scams. Scammers also can contact you through cell phone calls, e-mail, mail, and other means. Some common scams include:

  • Immigration and police scams - you are contacted by someone pretending to be an immigration or police officer and threatened with deportation or jail unless you pay a fine
  • Social Security and IRS tax scams - you are contacted by someone saying that you need to provide your SSN, or that you have to pay tax penalties due to failure to comply with US tax laws and regulations
  • Foreign government scams - you are contacted by someone representing themselves as a member of your home country's government, and informed that you have to pay money or risk jail time or imprisonment of family members due to a home country police or security issue
  • Job or internship scams - you are emailed an offer for a job or internship opportunity and asked to provide your personal information or send a deposit to purchase required equipment or uniforms; however, the job or internship turns out not to be real
  • Green card or visa lottery scams - you are invited to pay for visa or immigration services that are actually free (such as participating in the Diversity Lottery), or cannot actually be delivered by the company offering the service
  • Apartment scams - you are given instructions to wire a security deposit for an apartment that turns out not to be available or real when you show up to the apartment

Read about other types of scams here.

Signs of a Scam

Many scams today are very sophisticated. Scammers may appear to have detailed personal information about you, making the scam seem believable and realistic. The scammers may also contact you through multiple phone / Zoom calls to make the scam situation seem legitimate or real. Here are some common signs of scams:

  • You are asked to pay fines or fees through unusual means such as gift cards, Bitcoin or cryptocurrency, wire transfers through Western Union, or by providing your credit card or bank account information
  • You are pressured into acting quickly, and told "not to contact" your department, Tufts police, the International Center, your family, or any other outside party
  • You are threatened over the phone or email with immediate arrest, jail, or deportation from the US
  • You are told your family or relatives in your home country may be arrested if you do not respond immediately
  • You are contacted by email from someone claiming to be a certain person or from a company, but the actual email address is an external account that does not seem to match up or be legitimate
  • You are asked to provide your personal information (name, date of birth, Social Security Number, credit card) over email or the phone to an unknown agent or party

Quick Tip: The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) will never call you directly about tax or Social Security matters. While it is possible you might be contacted by the US Department of Homeland Security or by the FBI, these direct contacts are extremely rare, and will never involve a demand for money. Always get the caller's information and arrange to meet them at school. Contact the International Center and/or the Tufts University Police Department to assist you.

Protecting Yourself From Scams

  • If it feels like you are receiving a strange or shocking demand over the phone, email, or in person - especially if the demand involves money - call the International Center or the Tufts University Police Department
  • Even if the scam seems urgent, resist any demand to respond immediately
  • Ask any caller to meet you at the International Center or your department or a local police station - if they hang up or refuse, it's likely a scam
  • If the caller says they are from your home government, contact your country's embassy or consulate
  • Ask the caller for their name, badge number, and a phone number to call them back
  • To avoid apartment / rental scams, if you see an advertisement that seems "too good to be true," take extra precautions - it could be a scam
  • Never give out personal information, including your address, Social Security Number, or credit card or banking information over the phone or over email
  • Never click on links in an email from a strange or untrusted source - be sure the person emailing you is a trusted account
  • Use two-factor authentication on your email and other online accounts
  • Limit the amount of information you provide about yourself online through your email or social media accounts
  • Destroy paper records with your personal information, especially information with your date of birth and Social Security Number, through shredding or other secure means
  • Use resources through the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect your identity¬†and maintain online privacy and safety

Guide: How to Recognize a Phishing Scam

If You Are a Scam Victim

If you believe you are a victim of a scam or identity theft, call the International Center at (617) 627-3458 or the Tufts University Police Department at (617) 627-3030. You can also report suspicious phone calls that might be scams directly to the Tufts University Police Department.

  • You can also report scams to the Federal Trade Commission and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • If the scam involves a fake email to your Tufts email account, report it to Tufts TTS
  • If your personal information is no longer secure, refer to the resources at IdentityTheft.gov to identify next steps
  • Contact your bank and credit card companies with information about the scam, and monitor (and possibly chance or cancel) your accounts
  • Request a fraud alert be placed on your information with the three major credit reporting agencies, including Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion