WARNING: Be Aware of Scam (Fake) Phone Calls & Emails - Don't Lose Your Money!

The International Center would like to warn you about active scam campaigns that sometimes target international students and scholars. 

Scam Alert

What Are Scams?

Scams are illegal and fraudulent schemes by criminals (scammers) who are trying to get money from you. Scammers will often impersonate actual agencies or companies and use fear tactics to threaten you into paying them or providing them with your personal information*. Scammers will often tell you that you should not tell anyone else about your communications with them, but that is part of their plan to trick you.  Follow the instructions below to seek advice BEFORE sending money and before giving out personal information.

*Personal information includes your date of birth and place of birth, your social security number if you have one, personal financial information such as bank account or credit card numbers, etc.

What is Spoofing?

Spoofing is when a caller falsifies the information sent to your caller ID to disguise their identity. Scammers can make the number appear to be coming from a legitimate source. 

Examples of Common Scams

There are many types of scams, but below are some that commonly target U-M international students and scholars.

Phone Scams and Robocalls

Phone Scams can take any form but all involve a threat then a request for money. Some common robocalls spoof the following organizations:

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)- threatening deportation
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)- threatening arrest for back taxes
  • Courthouse or Law Enforcement Agency (such as the FBI or the police) - threatening arrest for a crime
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or scammers pretending to be officials from your home country - stating that a package with your name on it containing illegal materials has been intercepted.

What You Can Do:

HANG UP. Do not allow the caller to transfer you. Delete the text message. Block the number. Do NOT engage with Robocalls. If you are worried about a situation, contact the appropriate agency yourself or use trusted U-M resources to verify if the call is legitimate.

Overpay Scams

Overpayment scams take many forms but all involve someone “accidentally” sending a student a check for too much money then asking the student to send the balance back. The check is fake and will bounce. The student will lose any money they send.

What You Can Do:

Ask questions. If the answers do not feel right, the situation probably isn’t. Beware of buyers who suddenly cannot meet in person. If you receive a check for too much money it is more than likely a scam. Do not send the person money and  terminate the transition immediately.  Always wait for a check to clear before using any of the funds. Be aware, most banks will charge a fee for a bounced check.

Government Official Imposter

International students, particularly Chinese students, are often targeted by Government Official Imposter scams which involve an ‘official’ from the student’s home country or an agency of the United States threatening their immigration status.  

What You Can Do:

Block the call. Write down the person’s name, agency, and department. Hang up! Do not let the caller transfer you. Google the number for the agency and call them back to discuss the call yourself. If something does not feel right, contact DPSS or the International Center to help determine if it's legitimate.

Housing Scams

In a common housing scam, students are asked to put one month’s rent and a security deposit down on for housing that does not exist.

What You Can Do:

Look at the housing unit in-person. If you cannot see the housing unit yourself, ask the person for a live zoom walk-through. Photos and videos can be faked. If it seems too good to be true, it might be a scam. Check out U-M’s Beyond the Diag for more information on off-campus housing. If you are concerned that a housing offer might be a scam, contact Student Legal Services.

Love/Intimate Photo Scams

In a common intimate photo scam, students are asked to share an intimate photo or video online. As soon as the student sends one, the scammer demands money or they will release the photo/video to everyone on the student’s contact list.

What You Can Do:

Do not share intimate photos or videos online. Anything shared online is not private including video and text chats, which can be screenshotted or recorded. Use a web camera cover when the camera is not in use. If you are threatened, do not send money. The scammer will only ask for more. Block the profile. Report the abuse through the social media platform. Contact local law enforcement to investigate.

Employment/Internship Offer Scams

In a common employment/internship offer scam, students receive an email offering them a money-making opportunity for which they did not apply. The scammer sends a fake check to cover expenses then asks the student to make purchases or send money to a third party. The check is fake and will bounce. The student will lose any money they send.

What You Can Do:

Track the jobs you are applying for. Ask questions! Investigate the company making the offer. Call the department and ask questions about the job offer. Do not deposit checks that you receive in email. These offers are unsolicited meaning the student did not initiate contact, the scammer did.


  • Your home country's consulate will not call you and ask you to transfer money. They also won’t call you and ask you for your ID or bank account information, or tell you that they are transferring the call to “Interpol” or to the police. 
  • U.S. government agencies (such as USCIS, the IRS, FBI, etc.)  will not call you and ask for money, or threaten to arrest you.
  • You will never be asked to pay legitimate organizations with iTunes cards or other gift cards. If this is asked of you, it’s a scam!
  • You will never be asked to download an app (such as a remote desktop app) while speaking with U.S. government agencies or law enforcement. If this is requested of you, it is a scam.
  • Scammers are able to use email addresses and phone numbers that look legitimate. If an unknown person is threatening you or makes you feel uncomfortable, end the conversation.

If you receive a call, text, or email like this and are not sure what to do:

  • Contact the U-M Division of Public Safety & Security (DPSS) at (734-763-1131) or online here. The DPSS is always open so if you get a call like this at night or over the weekend you can always call them for advice. 
  • Enrolled students can also contact Student Legal Services for assistance (a free service), or consult residence hall staff if you live in university housing. 
  • Always seek advice BEFORE sending money and before giving out personal information.

Additional Resources:

See the links below for more details, examples of common scams, and advice about avoiding scams:

Stop the Scam