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International Students: Beware Of Scams

Updated on 24 May, 2023

Neha Uppal

Neha Uppal

Sr. Content editor

What if a random caller offers you a 100% scholarship to the university of your choice? Should you act immediately and grab the golden opportunity? No! 

Unfortunately, many students and their families lose a large sum of money to these common scams. 

While studying abroad in a prestigious university is the dream of many students, they are clueless about increasing cases of potential scams. Starting from discount schemes to pretentious tax officers– the scammer targets the victim to steal money or identity. 

To fight this vulnerability, you need to make yourself aware and find ways to escape and protect yourself from international students' scams. This article will guide you through the types of scams and the way out. 

Learn the tricks before you get tricked! 

What Is A Scam? 

A scam involves an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization that pretends to offer something tempting to the student. Whether you lose money or not, it is crucial to beware and report potential scams. 

You must think twice when things seem too good to be true and pop up out of nowhere. Reports suggest that post COVID phase has seen an increase in scams. Usually, these offers involve COVID-related schemes and admission offers that seem impressive.

Head to the following section to understand the common scams happening with students. 

Types of Scams 

Scammers do not apply filters. You could be an undergraduate or a postgraduate student – there is a solid chance that you could be the target. 

Scammers often try impersonating a government official to win the student’s trust. However, it is essential to educate yourself on the common scams going on in the industry. Below are some potential scams you might get trapped in. 

Immigration Scams 

This is one of the most common scams scaring students who have applied to multiple universities abroad. While the exact details may vary, the scam revolves around an individual or agency impersonating immigration authorities. 

You might get to know that there is an issue with your visa or immigration documents. As a result, you need to pay fines or get deported. These international student scams demand a hefty fine of 1500 USD. 

Tips to beware

One must remember that immigration authorities will never call over the phone to demand money or pay a fine. Additionally, some scammers ask you to pay fines through gift vouchers or cryptocurrency. Legitimate organizations will not accept money in such forms.    

Student Accommodation Scam

Every student wishes to find a safe and comfortable space to stay in a new country. This is the weak point scammers try to take advantage of. 

It revolves around an online advertisement of the fraudulent property. As soon as you enquire, the scammer will ask you to pay a security deposit and rent for the first month. In a few cases, they also show the property to win your trust and give fake keys to you. 

Tips to beware

You must refrain from paying the security deposit without examining the property in person. Moreover, you must confirm the numbers and area and cross-check with the neighborhood.  

Scholarship Scam

This is also one of the potential scams that pops up like a one-time opportunity. Since every student wishes to get a waiver on their fee, they try their best to apply for the scholarships. 

These international student scams ask you to pay an upfront fee to apply for the scholarship. As soon as you make the payment, the offer and advertisement will disappear. 

Tips to beware: One of the earliest clues is to know that an organization or an agency never asks for payment when you apply for a scholarship. Moreover, there is no such thing as ‘guaranteed scholarship.’

Virtual Kidnapping Scam

Not to scare you, but this is one of the most serious scams students are prone to. It involves the scammer calling you to inform you about your involvement in a major crime which could lead to your arrest. Following this, they will ask you to record a fake hostage video on the safer side and go in hiding.

The scammer uses this video to blackmail parents and get a ransom from them. While it is easier to identify these common scams, many students give in and get trapped. 

Tips to beware

No matter how realistic these international students' scams are, you must know that your country’s police cannot arrest you in a different country. Additionally, they will contact you in person and keep everyone informed, including your family and university. You must avoid staying in touch with the scammer and inform the authorities in your college as soon as possible. 

All the scams mentioned above can happen to anyone studying in a foreign country. Due to a breach of data privacy, your contact number reaches many people. Therefore, it is essential to note the red flags and secure yourself. 

The following section discusses why so many students fall prey to these potential scams. 

How Do People Fall Prey To Scams? 

There is no denying that scammers know the weak points of students studying in a foreign country. As a result, they curate a scam that hits the point and seems believable and tempting. Some common issues faced by international students that scammers use are:

  • Financial instability 
  • Feeling lonely and having difficulty adapting 
  • Constant search for better side hustles
  • High education fees 
  • Finding better accommodations 

If you notice, all the common scams are around the problems mentioned earlier. The most common technique to attract students and win their trust is rushing them into the process. These include:

  • Using firm language to threaten the student 
  • Blackmailing them with fake rustication and deportation laws or policies 
  • Convincing the students that current opportunity is what they need 
  • Rushing them to pay money, fee, or fines, or they might lose the opportunity 
  • Violence and arrest threats to scare the students and extract penalty money from them 

Unfortunately, several scammers are living freely around the world. However, your safety is in your hands, and you can avoid these situations by educating yourself. 

The following sections discuss some tricks to save yourself from common international students scams. Keep reading and share with someone who might need it. 

How To Prevent Yourself From Getting Scammed? 

Strengthening personal security can protect you from potential scams. The first few things to do are limit the personal information you share, avoid paying money to strangers, and keep your PINS and security codes private. 

Since scammers can contact you in any form, you must be mentally equipped to fight them. You can do this by following the S.C.A.M protocol below: 

  • Stop: Scammers know the tactics to pressure and rush you into paying money in any form. Thus, you must stop if you receive a fake phone call that rushes you to act and pay money. Either cut the call or block the number instead of continuing the conversation. You must also be actively suspicious of receiving a phone call from a stranger. 
  • Collect details: Install the Truecaller app so you receive a notification when the call is marked as spam by many people. Additionally, asking for the agency name, caller’s details and other information may help. Inform them that you will be verifying these details. 
  • Alert authorities: As soon as you have the information, you must inform the authorities in your university. They might contact the police department to verify the legitimacy of the call and the offer. 
  • Make a report: Follow the correct protocol to report the scam as per the suggestion of police authorities. On the safer side, it is essential to involve your family so they can be aware and act accordingly. 


You must remember without any doubt that your university will have your back in such situations. If you ever feel that someone has scammed you, informing the stakeholders will help. 

While educating yourself is easy, the actual situation demands more patience and wit. As a student studying in a foreign country, you must consistently educate yourself about the basic laws and policies to fight these common scams. 

The more you are alert and spread awareness among fellow students, the lesser the loss will be due to these scams.

Neha Uppal

Sr. Content editor

Neha Uppal is a passionate content creator and editor. She carries 7.5+ years of experience working with leading edutech companies where she worked as a Faculty, Community Manager, and Content Marketeer. At upGrad, she is helping out people keep informed about the scopes and opportunities of studying abroad via informational articles/blogs.

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