Tips for Avoiding Scams as an International Student

As international students, the administrative, legal, and professional systems here in the U.S. may be completely new for you, which can make it harder to recognize scams. We hope that you will not come into contact with anyone who is trying to steal your money or personal information, but we want you to be prepared to recognize scams and protect yourself from them.

General Tips
  • If someone over the phone is requesting money from you urgently to resolve a legal, tax, or immigration-related situation, you should immediately use caution. Scammers use pressure to get their victims to act quickly, before they realize that they are being scammed.
  • In general, government agencies and legitimate companies will not contact you unexpectedly via email or phone to request personally identifying information (SSN, banking information, etc.), or money, especially via wire transfer. 
  • Legitimate agencies or companies will not require you to pay in gift cards. 
  • Your Social Security Number (SSN) is a very sensitive number. In some countries, national ID numbers similar to an SSN are shared and used on a daily basis without issue. However, in the U.S., a stranger unexpectedly asking for your SSN is immediate cause for caution. Only share your SSN with trusted organizations/people and in situations where it is necessary. An example of a time where you would be required to share your SSN is when filing your tax return with the federal/state government. Keep your SSN card in a safe place and do not carry it with you on a daily basis.
  • Do not sign a contract or agreement without fully understanding what you are signing. For example, if you sign a lease on an apartment, be sure you understand the terms of your lease, and ensure that they are acceptable to you.
  • Scammers can "spoof" legitimate-looking phone numbers to gain your trust. Even if the caller ID on your phone says that a phone call is coming from your bank, the police, or another trusted organization, always exercise caution. If you receive a call like this, you can always hang up and call the number back to verify that you're speaking with the true entity.
  • Scammers who pretend to be from your bank or the government may try to convince you that they are legitimate by proving that they know your personal information. However, much of this information could have been found online. You can find more information on protecting your electronic data on the Federal Trade Commission website. 
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will never call you demanding payment. For more information on how to identify scammers pretending to be from the IRS, visit the IRS website.
  • If you receive a suspicious email, be sure to check that the email address itself matches the sender name, and avoid clicking on any links or downloading/opening any attachments.
  • Report any suspicious or unexpected electronic communication immediately to [email protected], even if it appears to be sent from a GW community member.
Housing-Related Scams
  • Landlords or agents should not ask you to pay a fee to visit or reserve an apartment or rental property that you've never seen. This is likely a scam. Application fees when you apply to rent an apartment, however, are customary.
Employment-Related Scams
  • Legitimate companies do not ask candidates for payment during the hiring process.
  • Legitimate companies do not require your Social Security Number, banking information, or other sensitive data in order to submit a job application.