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Protect Yourself From Scams

Unfortunately, international students and scholars are targets of scams in the US.

Scammers target international students and scholars in an attempt to solicit funds or identifying information on behalf of US Federal offices, such as the U.S. Internal Revenue Services, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USCIS), Social Security Administration, or Police Department.

For example, scammers are requesting those targeted students to send them money to avoid deportation or law suit. The scammers are using the ‘Location Services’ app on students’ cellular devices to find the students’ location and threaten them with continued pursuit or deportation if they do not receive the money.

These incidents have been reported by students throughout the country and are currently under investigation by law enforcement. Here are some warning signs of fraudulent scam phone calls:
  1. You should disregard any phone call or voice message from a person attempting to collect taxes or any other fees on behalf of the U.S Internal Revenue Service. IRS does not call anyone. IRS contact people via mail. Do not give any personal information and most importantly do not give them your credit card. Scammers are even leaving voice messages on students' cell phones. DO NOT RETURN those phone calls. These calls are generally coming from the area code (202).
  2. You should disregard any phone call from a person attempting to collect an SEVIS related fee on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USCIS) and SEVP. The process that SEVP has in place for the collections of unpaid I-901 Fees does not involve contacting students via phone to threaten or request money.
  3. You should disregard any phone call from a person attempting to obtain your Social Security Number or other information on behalf of the Social Security Administration.
  4. If you believe you are a victim of fraud:
    • Report instances of internet fraud to IC3 ( as soon as possible, regardless of whether or not funds were transferred.
    • If funds were transferred, immediately contact the sending financial institution and request a SWIFT recall or an ACH reversal. Also request that the sending financial institution prepare a Hold Harmless Letter to indemnify the beneficiary bank. 
    • For Social Security fraud, report fraud to the Social Security Administration.
Additionally, scammers are reportedly requesting up to $4,000 in income taxes and/or SEVIS related fees. Federal offices or Police Departments do not call people to collect any fees. The only time the requested Fee will be more is if a student has a returned check and via mail, NEVER with a phone call.  The additional amount would be limited to small, related service charges for bank processing.
What to do if you receive this type of phone call?
Do not provide any personal or financial information, including passport numbers, bank accounts, social security numbers, or other identifying information. Do not agree to be transferred directly to another phone number. Hang up and alert local authorities immediately. We also advise that you contact Campus Safety at 257-7777.
Office of International Programs
(8:30 - 5pm, M-F): 813-258-7433

UT Safety and Security (24 hours):
(813) 257-7777

Tampa Police Department (non-emergency)
(813) 231-6130

Useful websites:
USCIS - Avoid Scams
USCIS - Common Scams
USCIS - Beware of ICE Imposters
Study in the States - Read these Tips to Avoid Scams
Study in the States - Protect Yourself From Scams
FTC - Phone Scams
IRS - Tax Scams Video
IRS - Scam Tips
Social Security - Fraud Prevention
UT - Tips for Recognizing Phishing and Scam Emails