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Scams Warning Guide

The Ohio State University wants to warn our international students to be aware of ongoing scams.

Scammers target international students because cultural and language barriers often make it difficult for international students to determine whether an offer for help or request for money is real or fake. The most common scams encountered are those involving immigration, tuition and employment.

While some scammers may make threatening phone calls or send intimidating messages on social media or through email, others may use more gentle approaches that include using personal information they illegally obtained to scare someone into providing immediate payment or information.

Scenarios on specific types of scams are outlined below to help our campus community.

If you receive a threatening call or message from someone claiming to be a government or law enforcement official, you should:

  • Not give the person any personal or financial information.
  • Try to collect contact information from the caller.
  • End the conversation immediately if threats and intimidation persist.
  • First contact law enforcement by calling the Ohio State University Police Division at 614-292-2121 or Columbus Police at 614-645-4545. 
  • Also contact Ohio State’s Office of International Affairs at iss@osu.edu or 614-292-6101.

For more guidance on avoiding scams, please visit the scam pages of the Ohio State Student Legal Services (SLS) website and of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

If you believe you are the victim of any type of scam or fraudulent activity, please report it to police and also schedule an appointment to speak to an SLS attorney (visit studentlegal.osu.edu or call 614-247-5853).


Types of scams and how to avoid becoming a victim

Immigration

This scam starts when you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from a U.S. government agency or police department that tries to scare you into paying money for fines that do not exist. The person usually knows specific information about you like your date of birth. They will say that you owe a fine and requests immediate payment by credit card or electronic transfer. When you ask questions, the person becomes aggressive and threatens you with deportation.

To avoid this scam:

  • Remember that the Office of International Affairs is your only point of contact regarding your immigration status. The U.S. government or your home country’s government will not contact you directly.
  • Know that government agencies in general will never contact you by telephone and demand immediate payment or request that a student wire money for immediate payment.
  • Hang up the phone if you suspect a scam. The caller may try to keep you on the phone, but do not believe any threats. 
  • Report all scams to local law enforcement and talk to an attorney at Student Legal Services and/or the Office of International Affairs if you suspect a scam.

Tuition

In this scam you are approached or contacted by someone who promises you a discount on your tuition if you pay through that person. The person uses your Ohio State username and password to pay with a credit card and the tuition appears paid in full on your account. You wire the person the tuition amount minus the discount promised. However, the credit card was stolen and Ohio State will reject the payment. You will then still owe the entire tuition amount to Ohio State in order to remain enrolled.

To avoid this scam:

  • Know that anyone who promises a discount on your tuition is only trying to take advantage of you. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • Never share your OSU username and password with anyone. 
  • Report all scams to local law enforcement and contact the Ohio State Bursar, Student Legal Services and/or the Office of International Affairs if you suspect a scam, before entering into any agreements with a potential scammer.

Employment

These occur when you receive an email from what appears to be a legitimate business offering you employment. As part of your "job" duties, you are sent a check from the company. Your employer asks you to deposit the check in your bank account. You are to keep some of the money for your pay and then distribute the remainder as instructed by your employer.  

The scam is that the check or money order sent to you is fraudulent. When your bank rejects the funds from your "employer" you will have overdrawn your account and owe your bank fees and the funds deposited. 

To avoid this scam:

  • Remember that you cannot accept any on or off-campus employment without prior approval from an immigration coordinator at the Office of International Affairs.
  • Never provide personal bank account information to anyone.
  • Report all scams to local law enforcement and talk to an attorney at Student Legal Services or Ohio State Police if you suspect a scam.