How to Avoid International Student Scams

An international student at her computer, conducting research to avoid being deceived by international student scams.

Studying abroad should always be a positive, rewarding experience—but sadly, there are dishonest people in every part of the world. In your study abroad journey, you may come across scams trying to take advantage of you. Scams targeting international students use deception with psychological tactics to gain access to someone’s personal information or money. As an international student, it’s important to learn how to avoid them. 

Some common examples of international student scams include:

  • Scholarship Scams: A scholarship that asks you for payment.
  • Student Loan Scams: A company that promises loan forgiveness or loan cancellation if you pay them a fee.
  • Job Scams: A job offer asking students for money before the job’s start date.
  • Student Visa Scams: A government official or authority figure claiming your student visa or immigration status is in jeopardy, and threatening deportation unless you pay a fine.
  • Accommodation Scams: A landlord asking for an upfront deposit before meeting them or visiting the property.
  • Outstanding Arrest Warrant Scams: A government official or police figure threatening harm or arrest to you or your family back home unless you pay a fine.

Keep reading to learn more about common tactics used by scammers, and how to identify and avoid them.

A hand holding a certificate.

False Promises

A common component of many scams includes making guarantees or promises that seem too good to be true. False promises or guarantees usually involve taking a shortcut to achieve a goal. For instance, scammers may offer admission to a university you haven’t applied for, a job offer you haven’t interviewed for, or a “guaranteed” scholarship. 

Scammers know that most international students are awaiting admission, scholarships, and jobs in their destination country. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. More often than not, these offers are made on the basis that you’ll pay a fee to access them. 

Some key facts to keep in mind are:

  • In most countries, you must be enrolled in a full-time course as an international student for your student visa to be valid.
  • Legitimate employers should never ask job applicants for money or to pay a fee.
  • Academic institutions will not guarantee admission before you apply. If you receive a letter of acceptance or scholarship that you’re unsure is real, contact the institution to check.

Your safety is important. Read our tips for how international students can stay safe abroad.

A hand writing on a checklist.

Requesting Personal Information

International student scams usually request personal information or money for the exchange of fake goods or services they claim to provide. Revealing your personal information puts you at risk for identity theft, giving scammers access to your private finances, medical records, and other important documents. 

Many scams may ask for the following:

To avoid being contacted by fraudulent agencies or scammers, keep your personal contact information secure and offline whenever possible. Some examples of personal contact information include your phone number, email address, login information, and home address.

A golden stop watch, representing the sense of urgency used by scammers.

Threats and Urgency

Scammers may act as government officials, and use threats and urgency to make false claims. They may pretend to know your immigration status or claim you made errors on your visa application. They also may threaten you with deportation or arrest unless you pay a fine. 

Oftentimes, they will ask you to transfer money through an e-Transfer, wire transfer, prepaid credit cards, gift cards, or cryptocurrency exchanges. Scammers will try to pressure you into paying immediately by using aggressive language or threats. If scammers can find the names of your family members online, they may even go so far as to threaten your family back home.  

Some important facts to keep in mind include:

  • Government officials will never use aggressive language or threaten you with deportation or arrest over the phone.
  • Government officials will never ask you to make payments through wire transfer, prepaid gift cards, or cryptocurrency.
  • Most legitimate authorities will give you plenty of time to respond to requests, not demand immediate action. 
  • If you suspect you’ve received a scam call, contact your regional police department or anti-fraud centre.

Each destination country is different, but if you’re studying abroad in Canada, you can report any fraudulent calls you receive to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

A thoughtful woman with a finger on her chin, holding her elbow.

Missing Information

Another common feature of international student scams is missing information. Often, scams will avoid answering your questions or give generic, evasive answers. For instance, they may switch the topic frequently, not be able to answer academic-based questions, or won’t offer you official resources or links. 

World Education Services tells students to watch out for fake companies posting as legitimate schools: 

“Red flags include not being able to find comprehensive information about classes online, not easily locating information about student organizations or alumni, and not being able to make direct contact with various relevant personnel.” 

For this reason, it’s always a good idea to:

  • Check with the official embassy of the country you’re applying to study in.
  • Research an academic institution on its official website.
  • Do not click on any suspicious links sent to you.

Ready to SAFELY apply to study in one of our destination countries? Here’s a guide for Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia!

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This article can help you make informed decisions if you ever come across what appears to be an international student scam. It’s always a good idea to report frauds and scams to your local anti-fraud centre or regional police department. Remember to follow your gut instinct if something is telling you that something is wrong. 

If you’re cautious and informed, you’ll be well prepared to avoid scams on your study abroad journey. Enjoy!

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