Scams targeting international students area huge problem. In all of the main international study destination markets scammers con international students out of millions of dollars every year.

Here are some recent ‘real life’ examples:

Google “international student scams” and you’ll be overwhelmed by an avalanche of media articles, and scam alerts from educational institutions seeking to warn and protect international students.

Common scam types

There seems to be six main types of scams targeted at international students:

1. Tuition Payment/Discount Scam

  • A scammer offers an international student a discount on their tuition fees.
  • The scammer tells the student to pay them the reduced amount, and the scammer will arrange to pay the institution.
  • If the student pays their money is gone and they still owe their educational institution the full amount of tuition.

2. Accommodation/Rent Scam

  • Version 1 – A scammer advertises fake student accommodation online and asks an interested student to pay a deposit.
  • Version 2 – A scammer shows a student a property from the outside only, but they have no right to rent the property to the student. They ask the student to pay a deposit.
  • In either case if the student pays the deposit their money is gone.

3. Visa/Immigration Scam

  • A student receives a call from a scammer claiming to be from the immigration department.
  • The scammer tells the student that they must pay a fine in order to avoid deportation or other problems.
  • If the student pays the ‘fine’ their money is gone.

4. Tax Scam

Version 1 – Tax Refund

  • The student receives an email saying that they are entitled to a refund due to the over payment of tax.
  • The email appears to be from the taxation office, or internal revenue service in the country where the student is studying, and contains a link with instructions on how to claim the refund.
  • If the student clicks the link they will be asked to provide personal and financial information.this could include, name, passport details, banking and credit card details
  • If the student provides the information, the scammers use it to steal money from the student’s bank account or make unauthorised purchases on the student’s credit card.

Version 2 – Tax problem

  • The student receives a call from someone who says they are from the taxation office or internal revenue service in the country where the student is studying.
  • The caller says that there is a serious problem relating to the payment of tax by the student, for example:the student has failed to pay tax, or the right amount of tax, and/or the student has not properly registered to pay tax.
  • The caller threatens the student with very serious consequences unless the student immediately pays a ‘fine’.
  • The caller usually requests that the fine is paid by wire transfer, bitcoin, or gift cards.
  • If the student pays the fake ‘fine’ their money is gone.

5. Money Laundering Scam

  • A scammer asks a student to use the student’s bank account to transfer money overseas.
  • The scammer tells the student they can keep some of the money as a fee.
  • If the student agrees they may be facilitating money laundering, which is a serious criminal offence in most countries.

6. Virtual Kidnap and Ransom Scam

  • Often targeted at Chinese students.
  • A student receives a call from a scammer claiming to be from the Chinese Government or police.
  • The scammer advises the student that they are implicated in a serious crime in China and for their own protection should go into hiding until the investigation is complete.
  • If the student complies the scammers contact the student’s family and demands that they pay a ransom.

How educational institutions can protect international students from scams…

The best way to protect your international students from scams is to educate them on the risks. If students understand the tricks that scammers use and what to look out for they will have a better chance of avoiding scams.

Here are three simple steps your institution can take to educate international students about scams:

1. Include information about scams in your international student welcome pack

This is super easy to do. Some simple information about the main scam types and the steps students can take to recognise and avoid scams could give your international students enough information to avoid getting ripped off.

2. Issue regular scam alerts

Many educational institutions issue regular scam alerts to their students via email, and by posting alerts on their website. It is a great way to alert students to an immediate scam threat.

Alerts can be issued based on:

  • information received from your own student body
  • scam warnings from police or other authorities, or
  • scam alerts from other educational institutions.

3. Task your education agents

Your education agents are well placed to advise students (and their parents) about scams before the student leaves their home country.

By requiring your education agents to advise international students on scam risks as part of their standard service you can ensure that students arrive with some scam awareness.

In order for your education agents to provide advice to students on scams, the agent must first have a good understanding of the current scam threat environment and the implications for international students.

AgentBee offers an online short course for education agents: Scams Targeting International Students. It covers:

  • The global scam threat for international students.
  • Why international students are vulnerable to scams.
  • The common types of scams targeting international students.
  • How students can protect themselves against each scam type.
  • Recent ‘real world’ examples of each scam type in the main international student destination countries/markets.
  • How students can learn more about scams, and report scams.
  • The role of education agents in protecting international students from scams.
  • A short online assessment.

The course also includes a short information document on scams that agents can download, add their own logo to, and give to students and their families.

If you want your education agents to take the course…

get in touch with us today to discuss how to work with us.


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