Each semester, it seems as though a new scam goes around targeting international students and scholars. Most recent scams have included callers purporting to be from state police or the FBI, but we have also had instances of scammers identifying themselves as IRS agents, local police, and immigration officials. As the calls become more sophisticated, it is hard to warn exactly what variation the call will take.
There are a few warning signs to indicate the call is a scam phone call:
- The caller demands immediate payment
- The caller threatens to arrest or deport you
- The caller threatens you or uses scare tactics
In recent incidents, scammers have been able to spoof the numbers of state and local police offices, and also FBI or IRS offices. Sometimes the caller ID indicates that is where the phone number is coming from, and if you Google the number, it is a true police or FBI phone number. During the call, the scammer identifies him/herself as an official, and the caller ID may match the office the caller claims to be calling from. The scammer indicates that the student or scholar has either not paid some tax or has an immigration violation, that the “official” an arrest warrant for them, and the student/scholar will be arrested and deported if they don't pay a fine to clear the warrant. The caller may also know some of the student’s personal information. The scammer usually directs you not to tell anyone else about the situation, threatening arrest if you do so.
Please note that a government entity will NEVER demand payment immediately and over the phone. Additionally, police do not call individuals when an arrest warrant has been issued. While the caller may have some of your personal information and attempt to use threats to scare you into cooperating, you should NOT provide the caller with any money.
These calls are similar to some we have seen in the past, where an individual claims to be from the IRS and demands immediate payment by wire transfer or pre-paid debit card. Callers will often have a caller ID name that indicates the call is coming from the IRS, and the individual will threaten arrest or deportation. Like the case above, the IRS will NEVER demand payment by wire transfer or debit card, and they will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone. If the IRS is truly trying to reach you, they will contact you by mail first.
How to protect yourself:
Log into HokieSpa, and set your address and telephone number to be confidential, so it does not appear in the Virginia Tech directory. This can help prevent scammers from having access to some of your basic information.
If you ever receive a call from someone indicating they are from a government entity (IRS, immigration, police, FBI, etc.), get the person’s name, their badge/ID number, and their phone number, and tell them you will call back. Do NOT provide the individual with any money. Email or come see the international advisor and we can determine if the call is a scam or a legitimate phone call. If it is a scam, the international advisor can direct you to the necessary resources to report the call.