4 nasty international student scams to watch out for

Olivier Guiberteau
Olivier Guiberteau
Published on: 4 February 2021 • 7 min read

It’s important to protect yourself from international student scams when you are studying abroad.

The rise of the internet has made these even more common and difficult to identify. 

Here are 4 international student scams that you need to be aware of and what to do if they happen to you.  

  1. Accommodation scams
  2. Visa scams
  3. Job scams
  4. Money scams

1. Accommodation scams

It can be scary looking for accommodation in a place you are new to, and sadly accommodation scams are among the most common scams targeting international students.

Sometimes students are shown accommodation and then asked to pay a deposit and first month’s rent. When the student then returns to the property, the key they were given doesn’t actually work and there’s no sign of the landlord. 

Other times students will find a property online and begin communicating with the owner who then asks for a holding or viewing fee. 

As you can imagine, once this is paid, all communications stop and the owner vanishes. 

What to do:

  • Never transfer money to an overseas account.
  • If the property looks too good to be true, it probably is. 
  • If you are given a key to the property after viewing and paying a deposit, check the key immediately before you leave. 
  • Under no circumstances should you pay a holding or viewing fee. This is entirely against the law. 
  • If possible, try to find properties that are affiliated or connected in some way to the university.     

via GIPHY

2. Visa scams

There are a lot of international student scams, but visa cons are becoming much more common. This is a type of fraud that specifically targets international students and happens across the world. 

It can also happen in many different ways. Many students use visa services to process their visas. These are common and most are perfectly genuine, but there are certainly some that are not. 

It’s important to do your own research so you know what you do and don’t need to pay for. At the very start of the process ask the visa service about the stages and the payments needed along the way. 

If this starts to change as soon as the process begins, it could be a scam. 

Another type of visa scam comes over the phone. You might receive a call telling you that there is a problem with your visa application and that a payment or even a fine is needed otherwise it cannot continue. 

Let’s be very clear here. If your student visa application is going through the correct channels, they will NEVER call you and ask for an extra payment.

What to do: 

  • If you use a visa service make sure you have the whole process and payment schedule in writing before you pay anything. 
  • If you receive a phone call claiming to be from an immigration service, do not give them any information or confirm any information (hackers can easily find your personal information). 
  • If you are worried, hag up then contact the service directly. You will probably find they have no idea what you’re talking about. 

To learn how to apply for a visa, make sure you read our comprehensive knowledge base.

3. Job scams

It’s very likely that once you settle into a new country you might start looking for a job. While job scams aren’t hugely common, they are still something you need to be aware of. 

Sometimes people are promised jobs then asked to give lots of personal information including bank details and copies of identification which can be used to steal your identity.  

The problem is that most legitimate jobs will ask to do the same, so how can you tell the difference?

What to do:

  • A simple search on the internet can usually identify a fake job scam pretty quickly. If you can’t find any information regarding the business, it’s almost certainly not real. 
  • Be very careful about what information you give out. An employer will never ask for more than the most basic bank account details so you can be paid. 
  • Go with your instinct. If somebody seems a little untrustworthy and insists on meeting you outside instead of the office because it’s being “renovated” you should be careful. 

To find out how you can get a job alongside your studies, check out our knowledge base for full guidance. 

via GIPHY

4. Money scams

This is a scam that has been around for a while and targets everybody. You might receive an email one day from a complete stranger telling you a barely believable story about how they need to move money out of a foreign country. 

The scam makes it sound very appealing by offering you a huge sum of money for simply letting them use your bank account for a few days. 

This is too good to be true you tell yourself - and it really is. They will normally ask you to make some kind of deposit beforehand and once you do, you will never hear from that person again.  

Another money scam is when criminals approach people and ask them to take stolen money before moving it on to another bank account. This is money laundering and you could well find yourself with a criminal record if you do it. 

What to do:

  • Nobody is going to just give you free money - there is always a catch. If somebody offers you money on the street, or on over the internet, it is almost certainly either illegal or a complete scam.  
  • Criminals often target international students because they know that money is often tight and that they might not fully understand what is happening. If you are having financial problems, check out our article on budgeting and seek advice from your university. 

via GIPHY

What to do if you think you have been the victim of a scam

If you believe you have been a victim of a scam, it’s important to report it as quickly as possible. It is probably a good idea to contact your university and your bank if it involves financial information, but also you should report the crime. 

  • USA - Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line: 866-DHS-2-ICE
  • UK - Contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online tool
  • Canada - Contact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on 1-888-495-8501 or use Canadian Anti-Fraud Center’s online Fraud Reporting System
  • Australia - You can report it online to Scamwatch. If you have paid money or given out personal information, you can contact the Australian Tax Office (ATO) on 1800 008 540. If you have received a scam email or phone call, but have not given any personal details or paid any money, you can report the scam to the ATO online. 

Scams are an unfortunate part of our society these days. It’s important to be aware of the telltale signs of these scams so you can avoid them. 

A good way to think about it is, does something sound too good to be true? If the answer is yes, take a long hard look at what you are about to do - and be careful.  

Don’t let scams scare you, we’re here to help. Find your perfect course and university today.

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Olivier Guiberteau
Written By
Olivier Guiberteau

Oli lives in London and is a writer and photographer.


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