International students targeted by scam calls

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Photo Credit: Raquel Higine | Daily Texan Staff

An international student paid a scam caller a substantial sum of money after they were threatened with arrest and deportation, according to the UT Police Department Sept. 30 Campus Watch report. The student filed a report with UTPD after paying.

Margaret Luévano, interim director of International Student and Scholar Services, said scam callers target international students because they may be unfamiliar with United States laws regarding immigration status and how the government contacts immigrants. 

“Usually if there is a (legitimate) phone call, the person would identify which branch of government they’re with and then give them information on how to reach them, because they are also aware of scams that students encounter,” Luévano said. “They generally are very sensitive to (potential scam calls) and may even ask for a student to meet with them, whether it be on campus or off campus.” 

UTPD Cpl. Cory Morrison said students should be suspicious of unsolicited calls and try to get the caller’s name and contact information when possible. If a student feels intimidated by a call, they can hang up and call UTPD to investigate the caller, Morrison said. 

“The most important thing is when we have international students, they need to understand that (government officials) like the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will never ask you to transfer money to an individual, or they won’t ask you to pay fees over the phone or email,” Morrison said. “If they’re on the phone and somebody is asking for money, it’s most likely … going to be a scam or a fraud case.”

The case in which the student gave the caller money is still being investigated, Morrison said.

To educate students about scam calls, Luévano said the International Office requires international students to take an online module, which covers the threat of fraud calls and how to make personal information more private in the UT directory and on social media.

“Periodically, we do send out blog posts and email reminders to students and our scholar population … regarding information about typical types of scams,” Luévano said. “If somebody is trying to meet with you, feel free to try to meet them at the International Office.”

Luévano said fraudulent calls targeting international students have occurred more often within the past five years, so the International Office started suggesting international students restrict their directory information through the Office of the Registrar so it would not be public. 

“We usually don’t see it this time of year,” Luévano said. “It’s usually in the spring during tax season when students should be filing their nonresident taxes. That’s usually when we send out most of our reminders.” 

Ligia Requejo, applied learned and development senior, is an international student from Peru and said she receives scam calls often. Last fall, Requejo said she got a call from a person claiming she committed credit card fraud, even though she does not have a credit card. The person told her she had to pay money or the police would arrest her.

“I talked to a friend because I was scared, like ‘What is this?’” Requejo said. “I didn’t understand. I had never received a call like that when I was in Peru. They don’t teach you that there are scam callers or anything like that.”