Be Aware of Scams

Scammers (thieves trying to trick victims) are targeting international students in Southern California. Scammers posing as local police officers, agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), travel companies, apartment leasing companies, and immigration agencies – such as the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. Embassies abroad are contacting students and demanding money and personal information.

Phone Calls and Emails

Never provide personal information or money to anyone who has contacted you by phone, email or social media claiming you have violated your immigration status or owe taxes and must transfer money through Western Union (or other companies), or purchase gift cards, in order to rectify your immigration status. In many cases, callers will use a technique to mask their true caller ID with another government listed phone number or number of a private institution like a bank. If you are unsure about who is calling, tell the individual that you are busy and write down the caller’s name and phone number. If the caller refuses, hang up. Government agencies do not request payment over the phone.

In-Person Encounters

Avoid making cash transactions with strangers. Most scams occur when a stranger approach you with either a sad story or a business offer. These individuals seek to gain money from you in exchange for something that may not be true. Some scammers will ask for payment in the form of wire transfers or gift cards. If you do not know the person requesting a cash transaction, DPS recommends that you ask a DPS officer to witness the transaction or ask the person to meet with you at the DPS station to make the transaction.

If you are contacted by such persons, do not reveal any personal information. Ask for their contact information, and report the incident to the USC Department of Public Safety and or your local law enforcement agency immediately.

Beware of Tax Scams!

Do not fall victim to scammers who call and say they are with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)! More and more phone scams have been happening in which people will call and threaten you with police arrest or deportation if you do not pay them.

Please be advised, even if you do owe taxes…

  • The IRS will never call and demand immediate payment over the phone.
  • The IRS will never threaten or intimidate you, demand payment with a prepaid debit card, or ask for your credit card or debit card number over the phone.
  • The IRS will never threaten to call the police or immigration agents if you don’t pay.

If you or a fellow student receive a call like this, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration online or by calling 800-366-4484. Also, report it online to the Federal Trade Commission.

Extortion Scams

Females, allegedly from the Philippines, are contacting students via various online social media and chat platforms. They deceive students into believing they were entering into a consensual online sexual encounter and secretly record them. Then they threaten to make the video public unless the student sends the individual a substantial sum of money via Western Union or MoneyGram. This is a criminal act known as extortion and is a serious crime. Scams (criminal acts accomplished through trick or deception) such as these can be avoided. Do not respond to friend requests from complete strangers. Never send strangers money or give them your credit card information.

If you have been the victim of this type of crime, the University of Southern California encourages you to report the crime by calling DPS at (213) 740-6000. Alternative reporting methods include calling the Los Angeles Police Department at (877) 275-5273 or filing a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) online.

For emotional support, please contact the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services (RSVP) at 213-740-4900 (24 hours/7 days per week) for confidential support.


Be Aware of Scams (Traditional Chinese)
Be Aware of Scams (Simplified Chinese)
Beware of Scammers PSA Graphic (English)
Beware of Scammers PSA Graphic (Chinese)
2019 Scam Reports Overview