Scams are attempts from strangers to illegally receive money or personal information through deception, threats, and intimidation. Scammers contact their victims in different ways, including threatening phone calls or phishing e-mails. They may pretend to be representatives of Ames or ISU police and U.S. government agencies, such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Unfortunately, a number of international students have become victims of phone scams, in some cases being cheated out of thousands of dollars! Please do not let this happen to you.

Identifying a Scam

You may receive phishing e-mail messages asking you to verify your bank account number or debit card PIN. If you provide your account number or pin by clicking on the links or replying to the e-mail, scammers may gain access to your financial accounts. Often, someone calls your phone and says they are from the ISU Police, Ames Police, or the U.S. government (such as the IRS, DHS, ICE, DOJ, etc.). Scams will often state that there is a problem with your immigration status, taxes, or health/vaccination status then demand your personal information and/or immediate payment under the threat of arrest and/or deportation. 

Scammers often use the following tactics:

  • Threaten you with deportation or arrest
  • Say you must pay them in gift cards (iTunes, Amazon, etc.)
  • Tell you repeatedly not to hang up or they will come to your residence
  • Say they are from the U.S. government and you must pay a fine to avoid deportation/arrest
  • Say they are from the IRS, and that you did not pay enough in taxes or did not file an important tax form and you must pay now (The IRS will never call you on the phone)

Intimidation Tactic

Scammers are very manipulative and savvy. They utilize many different intimidation techniques to get what they want from their victims. Here are some of their intimidation tactics:

  • May have your address or other personal information
  • May have access to your location through GPS
  • May be VERY threatening and sound convincing
  • May say they or police are coming to your house. These threats are all lies and attempts to intimidate you into giving them money
  • May equip it so that your phone falsely displays 911 or other government agency name as the caller

Protecting Yourself from Scams

How to Avoid Scams

  1. You should NEVER give any personal information (such as credit card number, bank account number, Social Security Number) over the phone or e-mail unless you initiate the process.
  2. Consider not answering calls from phone numbers you do not know. Be sure your voicemail is set up. If it is a legitimate call, they will leave a message. If a message seems like a scam, bring it to ISSO or ISU Police.
  3. DO NOT give payment or personal information. No government agency (IRS, DHS, ICE, Ames or ISU Police, etc.) will ever ask you to wire them money or pay them using gift cards of ANY kind (including iTunes, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc.).
  4. DO NOT send money to persons threatening to release compromising, elicit photos. Instead, contact the Police immediately.

How to Respond to Scam Call

  • Do NOT give out any personal information
  • Obtain as much information from the caller or email as possible without alerting the scammer so you can report it
  • If you get an e-mail that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links
  • Call the ISU or Ames Police to report the incident
  • Tell Your Friends! Share your experience to warn others

Reporting a Scam

If you have been victim to a scam or provided personal information to a scam, first try to recall and retain as much information as you can about the scammer and report it.

You may report a scam to the following resources:

Disclaimer: This Frequently Asked Questions is intended for general information and guidance. As this information can quickly become outdated or may not apply to your situation, please consult with an International Student Advisor in the International Students and Scholars Office regarding your individual questions.