The ISO has received new reports of some common scam phonecalls that are targeting international students (though some of these calls have also been received by ISO Staff). This includes a new scam by phone, claiming the ISO is calling and asking for signifcant amounts of money. The IS will not contact students by phone to ask for funds, and any fees that need to be paid by the ISO would be paid via iMIT or in person to the ISO.
As we are also in the midst of tax season, which is a common time for phone and email scams, we wanted to send out this alert and reminder to be very careful when you receive phonecalls, emails, or letters from organizations/individuals that you were not expecting to receive that ask you to provide financial or personal information. They may be Scams.
Here are some of the recent scams that have been reported:
Social Security Number status will be cancelled/suspended, or individual has failed to pay taxes - First, a person's Social Security Number cannot be suspended, and you would not receive a phone call from the Social Security Administration or another agency to notify you of an issue with your Social Security Number. The current scam claims that you are under investigation for your Social Security Number to be used in a fraud or a crime, and that it will be suspended. The caller indicates that in order to resolve the issue you must provide personal information, including the Social Security Number, as well as possibly pay a fine over the phone. The caller also indicates this is urgent because you would otherwise need to go to court to resolve the issue. This is a SCAM. You should just hang up the phone. If you are concerned that the caller may have your Social Security Number information, you can report this scam to the Social Security Administration office in Cambridge.
Home Country Officers/Police - There are recent reports of new scams targeting international students through social media or phone with scammers posing as an officer from their home country Consulate or home country police. The scammers claim that the student owes money for unpaid fines and threaten to arrest or deport the student if they do not provide payment or personal identifiable information. Previously, most scammers posed as US officials and not home country officers. We have heard a number of recent reports of this scam (primarily from students from China, but have also heard about reports of individuals from other countries).
Package Courier Companies - Students should also be careful if you receive a call from someone indicating they are from package couriers or express mail companies asking for funds or personal identifiable information. A similar email scam has a message looking very similar to an actual Amazon email/website indicating there is a "problem with a recent order" (Amazon has a webpage on how to protect yourself against such scams). If you receive such a call or contact, you may wish to thank the caller and then you can hang up the phone and contact the shipping company directly to ensure the issue is real. DO NOT use the phone number provided by the caller, but rather go in person to your local carrier or use the official company contact number on their official website.
Phone Number on Caller ID is the actual number of the Police Department or Government Agency - One of the strengths of many of these scams is that the caller ID indicates the phone number is actually from the local police department or government agency. We have had a number of scams where the number that appears is the actual number of the Cambridge Police Department, the Social Security Administration, or the Department of Homeland Security. It is VERY easy to program a caller ID to appear as a specific number when the caller is actually calling by a different number. When you receive a call, say thank you for calling, ask for their phone number and the name of the officer, and say you will be happy to give them a call back after talking with the MIT International Students Office. If the caller says you may not do that, it is a scam. Government agencies are fine with you calling back after speaking with the ISO -- the agencies are aware that these scams exist. The ISO can help you, if needed, to contact the appropriate agency if you want to verify if the call is a scam or not.
Remember these THREE steps to protect yourself from scams
(1) Do NOT give out ANY personal information over the phone or via email.
(2) Please remain calm.
Remain calm and ask the person for as many details as possible. For example, their name, government ID number or badge number, their phone number, what branch of the government they work for, and the reason for why they are contacting you. Indicate that you will be happy to contact them again after you speak to an ISO advisor. Legitimate government agency representatives would allow you to hang up the phone, contact your ISO Advisor, and then respond to the agency. If they continue to harass you or tell you not to hang up the phone, please hang up the phone. If you are being contacted by email, do not respond to the email.
(3) Contact the ISO immediately!
We can help you determine if the official is legitimate or if it's a scam. We may also advise you to contact MIT Campus Police to file a report about this contact.
For more information about scams, there are a number of resources:
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – Avoid Scams (https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams)
- Tax Scam/U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) -- Telephone Scams (https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-reiterates-warning-of-pervasive-telepho...)
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission – Consumer Information – Scam Alerts (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts)
- U.S. Department of State – Fraud Warning — Diversity Visa Lottery Scam (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/fraud.html) NOTE: The U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery can be entered for free by an individual, no assistance is required and an individual cannot submit more than one entry each year.
If any questions arise, please contact your ISO Advisor by email or contact the ISO by phone (617-253-3795).