Scams are usually in the form of phone calls or emails that are undertaken by fraudulent individuals for the purpose of obtaining personal information or money from you. The individuals calling you are trying to take advantage of you and use your information for harmful purposes.

Remember: Reporting scams will not affect an international student’s immigration application or petition. Also, many states and federal agencies allow students to report scams anonymously.

Read more about scams here: Consumer Information

Common payment methods Scammers use can be a clue that you are dealing with a scam:Scam Clues

National Public Radio also did a story where you can hear what a scam call might sound like in Fall 2016, here.

To report a scam call or email, report your experience to the FTC online or by calling 1-888-382-1222 (FTC – Federal Trade Commission)

Please also report Scam calls or emails to the UMBC Police. The UMBC Police have a myUMBC group, where they post alerts, announcements, and resources to help UMBC community – please consider joining to get the best information about how to protect yourself from scammers. UMBC’s Department of Information Technology (DoIT) also has an IT Security myUMBC group that posts about Scams.

You can report a suspected scam call or email to ISSS staff using this form.
Note: You must be logged in to your myUMBC account in order to access the form.


How to determine if a call is a scam

  • The callers claim to be from a government organization, such as USCIS, the IRS, or a court – these organizations will never call you!
  • The caller uses high-pressure tactics to try to get what they want.  They threaten you with things like deportation, arrest, and more.  The caller also will not let you off the phone to call ISSS and verify if this is legitimate.  If you were in enough trouble that these were things that might happen to you, it wouldn’t be a surprise to you, and you would NOT get a call about it.
  • The caller does not sound professional.
  • The caller asks or demands money, gift cards or personal information – this is certainly a scam!!
  • The situation is too good to be true – a job offer you didn’t apply for or aren’t eligible for; a gift card or award


How to determine if an email is a scam

  • Check the email address of the sender.  For example, a recent scam claimed to be the “UMBC WebMail Progam” but had an email address that was NOT from UMBC.  Any government emails would also be from an email address that is a US government email.
  • Is the language professional?  Many scammers are not native English speakers, and the email is not written in professional English or has basic English language mistakes.
  • The email asks for money or personal information.  US government organizations will not ask for personal information or money via email.
  • The email is threatening.
  • The email doesn’t make sense.  For example, the “UMBC WebMail Program” email would clearly be a scam because UMBC does not use WebMail.  You can google search UMBC Webmail Program and won’t be able to find anything – this tells you it is likely a scam.
  • Please also check out this publication by the UMBC Police department on how to identify a scam email.


If you receive an email or call you believe could be a scam, please take the time to check with our office before responding and certainly before sharing any money or personal information, or clicking on any links.


How to Determine if a Job offer is a Scam

Please see the Career Center’s post on being wary of scam job offers here: Scam Job Offers


Common Scam Scenarios


Scenario #1: USCIS or IRS Phone Scams

Student receives a call from someone from USCIS with the USCIS National Customer Service Center number. The USCIS “representative” provides personal identifiable information about his/her academic status and immigration/visa records including passport number. The “representative” insists that the student is out of status and he/she must wire money to “USCIS” to fix the problem. Otherwise, the student must leave the country immediately. The “representative” provided a batch ID number and told the student to go to the airport after the wire transfer.

  • Remember The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will never call your personal phone.
  • Your international student advisor can always confirm your status by accessing your SEVIS record.
  • USCIS would never request money over the phone to “fix” your status.

 Scenario #2: Other Common Phone Scams

  1. “Notario Publico” – in many Spanish-speaking nations, these are powerful attorneys with special legal credentials. However, in the U.S. they are not authorized to provide students or anyone else with any legal services related to immigration.
  2. Local businesses and websites that claim to be affiliated with USCIS, which offer step-by-step guidance on completing USCIS application for a fee.
  3. Visa Lottery Scams – emails or websites not affiliated with the United States Department of State that identify students as DV lottery “winners” and require payment of fees.

Scenario #3: Email Scams

These most commonly appear to be from UMBC and ask you to click a link to verify your email account, at the risk of it being disabled.  If the campus technology office needed something like this to be done, they would alert the campus community in advance.  This is also highly unlikely.

Remember: If you ever have any questions regarding a scam call or email, or questionable website, please contact your international student advisor at