5 Common Scams that Target International Students

by | Dec 4, 2023 | Admissions, Finance, Jobs, Student Life

Newly independent in a new country, international students are especially vulnerable to being victims of scam.

Scams are crimes that involve someone using false pretenses to illegally obtain money from another. The most common scams targeting international students usually center on common challenges such as:

In this guide, we’ll explore some of the most common scams that target international students. After reading to the end, you’ll have a good understanding of what to look out for to avoid being a victim.


Immigration Scams

In this type of scam, a student may receive a call from someone claiming to be an embassy official. They will claim that your student visa is about to be terminated due to some fault with your documents and ask you to remit some money for them to fix the issue.

As someone who doesn’t have plenty of information about how embassies operate, you might panic and remit the money. Don’t do that.

Embassy officials will never ask you for your personal information over the phone, leave alone requesting you to send money via unauthorized channels.

Here’s what to do:

  • Don’t give out your personal information
  • Do not confirm any information they already have about you
  • Terminate the call immediately
  • Do not send any money
  • Report the incident to your international student advisor and the police


Student Accommodation Scams

Finding suitable student accommodation is a major concern for international students – and scammers know this.

In this type of scam, the scammer posts a property advert online. When you come across it and call to make an inquiry, they’ll ask you to send a deposit. Once you send the money, the scammer will stop responding to your calls. They may arrange to send you the keys and paperwork via mail, which will never arrive.

Accommodation scams can be tricky to spot. In some cases, the scammer may even show you around the property and give you fake keys – which gives you a false sense of assurance.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • Don’t send a deposit without viewing the property
  • Avoid property ads that don’t show pictures
  • Be wary if multiple ads have the same pictures
  • Avoid ads where only an email address is provided
  • Try the landline number provided – most scammers provide fake landline phone numbers

Ask the international students office to connect you with a trustworthy letting agency or landlord


Scholarship Scams

Many international students rely on scholarships to fund their studies. Scammers are aware that there’s a huge demand for scholarships, which they exploit to defraud international students.

With this kind of scam, the fraudster advertises a fake scholarship. When you apply, they’ll ask you to send a payment. Once you send the money, they’ll stop communicating with you.

Here’s how to spot a scholarship scam:

  • When they ask for an application fee – legitimate scholarships don’t charge any kind of fees.
  • When the company promises a guaranteed scholarship – legitimate scholarships are never guaranteed.

Use 8B’s comprehensive scholarship database to find legitimate scholarship opportunities for international students.


Job Opportunity Scams

With this type of scam, the fraudster offers you an attractive internship or job opportunity. The catch, however, is that you’ll have to pay some money to ‘register.”

No legitimate employer requires job applicants to pay for a job or internship opportunity. If anyone asks you to pay for a job opportunity, that is a big red flag.

The scammer may also ask you to provide personal information such as bank details and copies of your identification documents – which they can use to steal your identity.

If you’re invited for an interview for a job that you didn’t apply for, it’s likely to be a scam. It’s advisable to always research companies before sending an application. If you can’t find information about the company, it could be a scam.

Additionally, be careful about sharing personal information. Employers ask for only the most basic personal information. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut instinct.

Use 8B’s jobs and internship board to find legitimate career opportunities.


Identity Theft Scams

As we’ve mentioned above, some scammers are after your personal information to steal your identity. Such scammers ask for information such as your:

  • Birthday
  • Visa number
  • Social security number
  • Banking information

They use your information to open credit card accounts in your name, and then stick you with credit debts.


Common Red Flags to Look Out For

Scams have common red flags that can alert you. Here are common components to look out for:

  • Requests for money through payment methods such as Bitcoin, online money transfers, mobile money transfers, and gift cards.
  • Asking to confirm your personal information such as social security number, birthday, and banking information.
  • Use of fear, threats, and intimidation to get what they want from you.
  • A sense of urgency – such as a fast-approaching deadline to send money. There will be threat of dire consequence for not acting immediately.
  • Email addresses that don’t have the official style (of the organization or government agency)
  • Use of legal-sounding language meant to confuse and intimidate you.
  • Avoiding giving you information on themselves or providing vague answers. For instance, a scammer pretending to be a government official will not give you their name and badge number to confirm their identity.
  • Scammers want to keep you talking on the phone to convince you. They’ll be reluctant to let you hang up and call back later.


How to Protect Yourself from Scammers

In addition to the tips we’ve provided above, here are some general guidelines to protect yourself from scammers as an international student.  

  • Ignore offers of easy money. If the deal seems too sweet, think twice.
  • Do not open suspicious emails or click the links they ask you to. Such links are meant to download malware to steal personal information from your computer or phone.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you provide online such as on social media platforms or job forums.
  • Shred documents containing personal information such as your Social Security number and banking information.
  • Equip your computing devices with strong anti-virus software and maintain strong passwords.
  • Ensure your PINs and passwords are secure and private.
  • Regularly check your credit reports for suspicious activity.
  • Report any suspicious activity to the international student support office and the authorities ASAP.

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