Staying safe from scams

Scammers often target international students and scholars across the U.S. They frequently act like government or immigration officials to scare you into giving out money or personal information.

Find more tips for avoiding scams on the Social Security Administration,, and USCIS websites.

If you ever receive a phone call or email asking about your immigration status, personal information, or seeking immediate payment, be suspicious.  It is important that you protect your personal information.

Neither U.S. government agencies nor IUI representatives would require payment from you via phone, email, gift card or payment app (such as Zelle or Venmo). All requests for official payments will arrive on government stationery. Our office will always use your IU email for formal communication.

Contact us with any questions about potential scams. Reporting scams will not affect your immigration application, petition, or status.

Example scam

You may receive a call from someone requesting your personal information and threatening you by saying the police (or other agencies) will arrest or deport you for not filling out a form or not paying your taxes. They may also accuse you of having a suspended social security number.

The call may be a robo-call (meaning it's a recording and not a human that is talking) making urgent callback requests. Sometimes criminals even use spoofing services to choose the number or name that shows up on your phone. That means the call may appear to be coming from a government agency, but it is a trick.

It's also possible that the scammer might have your personal information such as your name, birthday, and the last four characters of your I-94 identifier.

If contacted in this manner, you should immediately be suspicious. Ask for the person's full name, agency, reporting office, and a government telephone number to call the person back. They will likely tell you must act immediately. Don't believe them. End the call and seek guidance from our office.

See a list of common scams

What to do if a scammer contacts you

  • If you receive a call demanding personal information or payment, hang up immediately.
  • If you receive an email demanding personal information or payment, do not respond.
  • You can contact our office for guidance if you’re not sure if something is real.
  • You can verify if you were contacted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by doing one of the following:
    • Call the National Customer Service Center (1-800-375-5283) to ask if you need to do anything about your case or immigration status.
    • Make an InfoPass appointment.
    • Use myUSCIS to find up-to-date information about your application (if you have one).

Reporting a scam

You can report scams in one or more of the following ways.

Being a smart consumer

Ultimately, we want you to think critically about things before you respond. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While we may want to believe that people are honest, it isn't always true.

If someone is pressuring you to make a quick decision, that’s probably a sign that something isn’t quite right. If you’re signing up for a service or purchase online—and it’s not a website known to you—review the terms and conditions instead of just automatically clicking the box that says you agree.

Steps you can take to protect against fraud

  • Keep your social security card in a secure place at home.
  • Be cautious about giving your full social security number over the phone, especially if you did not initiate the interaction; never send it by email or text.
  • Do not give anyone login information for any online accounts.
  • Do not let anyone claiming to be a US government official pressure you to make wire transfers, purchase gift cards, or pay them with digital currency.
  • Be cautiously skeptical about phone numbers and email addresses claiming to represent government agencies; check to see if the email address seems “phishy.
  • If you are concerned that someone calling you is pretending to be a government official, ask for their name and title and inform them you will contact the agency through official channels, such as the phone number published on an official government website.

Examples of a business or government transaction that would legitimately require your social security number:

  • Filing an immigration benefit application
  • Engaging in employment
  • Filing a tax return
  • Applying for a driver’s license
  • Opening a bank account
  • Applying for a line of credit
  • Renting an apartment or applying for a mortgage
  • Applying for a professional license
  • Enrolling in health insurance or accessing medical care

Review the Social Security, USCIS, and the webpages for more tips about avoiding scams.