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We try to let you know when we learn about new scams, so you can avoid them and warn your friends and family. Here’s another one: scammers pretending to be from the federal government are scaring international students into paying them money.

We’ve been getting reports that foreign students, particularly from South Asian countries, are getting phone calls that look like they’re from the government. The caller typically knows about a student’s immigration status and the program or school they’re attending. He’ll say there’s a problem with the student’s immigration documents or visa renewal. And then he’ll demand immediate payment, often thousands of dollars, for a fee or bogus immigration bond. These callers have made threats, including arrest or deportation, if the students don’t pay, and they ask to be paid with gift cards (like Google Play or iTunes) or a cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin).

What are the signs that these are scam calls? The federal government wouldn’t make such calls, wouldn’t make such threats, and wouldn’t ask for such payments. And any callers who want to be paid with gift cards or cryptocurrency are scammers, who like those payment methods because they can get the money and disappear without a trace.

If you get a call that’s anything like this, hang up the phone. If you’re not convinced it was a scam, talk to someone you trust about the call. Several people report that they figured out the call was a scam after talking with a relative, the local police, or a school official. It’s likely that others in your community got the same call, so talking about the call could help others in your area. And if you’re concerned about your visa or immigration documentation, call USCIS’s National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283.

Information about how these scams work helps us stop them, so please go to to let us know if a scammer has contacted you or someone you know.

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To read a version of this blog post in Traditional Chinese, click here.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Ed Witte
February 25, 2019
Way to many robotic phone calls just waiting for us to give them a shot at our families and security. Our phone security system gives everyone 2 rings if they are unknown or unwanted. Their invited to leave us a message but guess what. They just disappear but will try again later. How can we get them off our backs?
February 26, 2019
267-861-3754 - Angela called - asking for money on my auto vehicle warranty - PLEASE STOP CALLING ANGELA - I do not own a vehicle - never did - GO AWAY
February 25, 2019
Thanks for the warning ahead of time, so we can be prepared for to the Robo Calls when they come to our phone. We know not to answer, but block & delete.
February 25, 2019
We have been getting these type of calls every single day, for about 5 yrs. now, and it seems like the last past 2 yrs. are worse, my credit cards were stolen from the internet, at the beginner I started getting calls from companies like PC resolutions, HP Computer, Dell, etc. I even got a call from one of the internet company, and for some reason they used to say they were calling us because our computer was sending them messages that a virus had taken over the pc. I noticed that is was so weird that if we use the computer at time when we went to shut off it will come with a message saying if you turn off , others working in the same internet will go off of line, and I complain to the internet services, nothing was done, well now is been 2 yrs. that we receive more than 12 calls per day and numbers are similar to our home phone but missing a number, like if it was from the same area we live, I have "Life Lock " through my home phone carrier, and now I get it at my cell, I blocked every call that I get, and number is not recognized, I do not pick up and if I respond, usually it sounds like oversea calls, most of these calls are either robot calls, and if they talk, you could tell there is accent , my neighbors are receiving the same calls every single day, is disgusting that we cannot have any privacy, our information is out there, and these scammers are getting it.
February 27, 2019
I get calls every day from local numbers or out of state but I don't answer if I don't know the number or caller! I wish I could block more numbers but I can only block a certain amount of numbers! I'm really tired of all these fake calls and I wish somebody could stop these calls!
March 03, 2019
Scammers are stealing peoples Facebook and Instagram Accounts to Scam people. If you’re disabled , Special Needs, Elderly, has Cancer, they will steal your photos, information, etc from Facebook and Instagram and use it to contact you or others. They’ll pretend to be a relative, the Government, FBI, paid Assassins, debt collectors, hotel managers, IRS, and offer grants. They purchase fake DHHS,(Department of Health & Human Services) Government IDs/with someone else’s photo on it, documents, buy FAKE FBI IDs from eBay. They’re using any scheme to steal YOUR bank account, credit cards, Identity, phone number, and address to scam OTHERS. This is an EPIDEMIC THATS GOTTEN OUTRAGEOUS. They’re robbing and destroying peoples’ lives everyday and getting away with it. People, whatever you do, PLEASE STOP putting your PERSONAL INFORMATION on FACEBOOK/INSTAGRAM. DON’T PAY FOR ANYTHING on the Phone. I pray you will not become victim to scammers. (THEY’RE THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATES)!!!
March 14, 2019
I got scammed by them yesterday, and they had a lot of information about my immigration status, documents that I had submitted etc. They can be EXTREMELY convincing but please do not fall for it like I did. They made me pay with Google Play cards.
May 30, 2019
I just got hit with the free government grant. If someone from the assistance center is watching us post, how do I contact The government assistance center to intervene...Please I need that money. I will be watching. please?
Don't use your…
June 07, 2019
Got a foreign student doing a the opposite. Not sure if its scam or legit, but got a check in the mail to deposit to my bank and withdraw 3000. Not sure what to figure out about this