Ask an OISS Advisor: Telephone Scams

A friend of mine at another university received a call from USCIS that was determined to be a scam.  What do I do if I get a call like that?                     

by Jason Marquart, Team Leader

Answer: There have been many reports by other colleges and universities of international students who were scammed by criminals posing as immigration agents. Over the past year or so, we have also heard reports from Washington University students who received phone calls and e-mails from potential scammers.

Recently a graduate student reported getting a fraudulent phone call that appeared to be from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  This scam has been prevalent throughout the United States, prompting USCIS to release a warning.

Often the caller claims that the international student must pay a fee within a few hours or risk being deported.  As we say to students during our international student orientation, immigration agents rarely ever call international students. Also, deportation is a complicated process that requires a sentence from an immigration court—it does not happen in a few hours.

If you get a call from someone who suggests that they are an immigration agent calling from an agency such as US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP), you should take detailed notes of the conversation and then reach out to the Office for International Students and Scholars as soon as possible.  Our office can help you determine if the call was legitimate and if further action is necessary.

If you receive the phone call after business hours, and you do not want to wait, you can always contact the Washington University Police Department, which is open 24 hours a day, at 935-5555.  You may be feeling scared or anxious when you get that call, but you should always know that we can assist you.

Finally, it may be worth mentioning that there are many varities of criminal scams.  You may get a call from someone posing as the Bank of America, the cable or internet utility, or some other organization that claims to need your social security number (SSN) or other private information.  If you are not 100% sure who you are talking to when you get that call, do not give out personal information without verifying the call.

As always, if you have any questions regarding criminal scams, please contact the Office for International Students and Scholars at, 314-935-5910, or visit during walk-in hours.


Send us your questions! “Ask an OISS Advisor” is a regular feature in the International Voice where OISS advisors answer questions that have been submitted by International Students and Scholars from Washington University. This means that we need your help! If you have a question that you would like to have answered in this column, please send it to us. It might be a question for which you don’t know the answer or it may be a particular issue that you have noticed causes confusion for many other international students. If you’re not sure if it’s a good question for this feature, go ahead and send it in, and we will decide. Please send your questions to the editor of the International Voice at: . Indicate if you prefer for your question to be anonymous.