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Scam Safety

Each year, international students and scholars are the target of scams. A scam is a fraudulent attempt to obtain personal information, money or something of value from you. To protect yourself, it is important to learn how to identify and report suspected scams and how to safeguard your personal information.

Common Types of Scams

  • Impersonating Government Officials or Agencies: Calls from someone pretending to be from DHS, ICE, USCIS,  the IRS or other government agency. They may threaten deportation or say you are involved in a criminal investigation and the only remedy is providing payments via wire transfer, gift cards, or other electronic means.
  • Housing/Rental Scams: Luxury units at “too good to be true” rents, asking for deposits to be paid before viewing the place in person only to discovers the unit does not exist.
  • Employment Offer Scams: Receiving job offers for which you did not apply; requesting deposits for job related materials or equipment prior to starting; emails about employment opportunities that offer good pay for very little work/time.
  • Social Media/Online Gaming Scams: Calls or messages threatening to post indecent images on social media; hacking of Venmo or other electronic payment accounts;

How to Identify a Potential Scam

  • There is a demand for personal information, money, or gift cards.
  • The scammer creates a sense of urgency and uses high pressure tactics to get you to comply quickly.
  • The scammer tries to isolate you. They tell you that you cannot hang up and cannot talk to anyone else.
  • Scammers use threats: threats of humiliation, threats of deportation, or other threats to your legal status or wellbeing of your loved ones.
  • The situation or offer seems too good to be true. For example, a luxury apartment with very low rent or a job offer you never applied for.
  • Scammers may contact you via email, text, phone or social media.

Tips to Avoid Being Scammed

  • No legitimate agency will ever ask for your SSN or to verify other personal information over the phone, unless it is for an application or issue that you have personally called them to initiate.
  • If you are shopping or banking online, make sure that the website is secure before giving out sensitive information. Look for the lock symbol in the browser. Don’t give out sensitive information over unsecured networks.
  • Keep your passwords, PINs, and other important information private. If others have access to them, they can access your data and accounts.
  • No U.S. government agency will call you to ask for money. U.S. government agencies are likelier to contact you via regular mail if they have important information to send you/ask for.
  • No legitimate agency will ask you to purchase gift cards and provide them with the PIN.
  • Some scammers will threaten to take action against you unless you give them money. They may threaten to deport you, or they may threaten to take action against you on social media. This scare tactic is part of the scam. Never give someone money in this situation.
  • If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
  • When in doubt, report it! It is okay to report something and be wrong

How to Report A Scam

  • Contact ISSS to report the scam or suspected scam
  • Contact VUPD immediately – even if it is after business hours – and file a police report with local law enforcement. Police reports make it easier to dispute fraudulent charges that occur.
  • You can contact VUPD or the police at any time of day – including late at night.
    • VUPD: (615) 322-2745
    • Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (“Metro”): 615-862-8600
  • Download the VandySafe app on your phone. This app is free and allows you to contact VUPD directly. It also includes other resources to help you stay safe on campus.
  • If you gave out any of your personal information (or suspect that your information has been compromised), contact the fraud units of one of the three credit reporting companies – Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. They can place a fraud alert on your record, making it harder for someone to open up an account in your name. You can also request a free credit report to monitor any suspicious activities in your name. You are allowed one free report each year.
  • Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission.


Vanderbilt University Office of Cybersecurity – Learn more about scam awareness and strategies for protecting yourself online.

Scam Alert! Protect Yourself from Scams with ISSS and VU Cybersecurity – Watch this recording to learn about scam trends and tips for protecting yourself.

USCIS Scam Information – Educate yourself on common immigration scams.