Scams and Safety

What Are Scams?

Scams are dishonest, illegal schemes that aim to make money by deceiving people.

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Common Scams

International students and scholars should be especially aware of the following types of scams:

Housing Scams

These primarily appear as online advertisements on sites such as The contact person will insist that you send them money for housing accommodations even though you have not yet visited the property in person. When you show up to the address, the place is unavailable.

Phone Scams

Callers say that they are from USCISIRS, or another government agency. They seem to have a lot of personal information about you and threaten to have you deported or file a complaint if you don't send money immediately. They may be able to mask their true phone number and may appear to be calling from a legitimate U.S. government agency number. Do not give them any information or follow their instructions.

If someone claims to be from a government agency, ask for their full name, job title, department, email, and phone number. Let them know that you will be contacting your International Student or Scholar Advisor for advice before responding. Bring the information to Berkeley International Office, and an advisor can follow up to see if this is a legitimate request. If the individual refuses to provide identification, they do not work for a government agency.

Please be aware that it is highly unusual for legitimate representatives of USCIS, the IRS, and other government agencies to call individuals about a pending case. Almost all contact from these agencies is in writing, generally by U.S. mail.

Street Scams

Strangers may approach you in public and pressure you into accepting unwanted goods or services in return for money. Other scams may involve trying to coerce you into providing money or assistance, or diverting your attention while taking your belongings.

Phishing Scams

In a "phishing" email scheme, criminals pose as a trusted person or organization, such as a bank or government agency.  They will go to great lengths to make the email appear legitimate, and will often contain links to a phony website intended to bait victims into providing financial account information, passwords, and other information that can lead to identity theft. Recipients of a W-2 tax form from UC Berkeley should be aware of phishing emails containing W-2 or tax information. Read more here and here.

Part-Time Job Scams

The scammer will send you an email offering a part-time job that allows you to earn money while you study. There are various ways that the scammer may obtain money or information from you. Do NOT respond to these emails or click any links therein. See the example email below.

***Beginning of scam email***

From: [email redacted]
Date: Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 9:22 A

Dear Student,

We got your email addresses from The University of California in Berkeley database and I'm happy to inform you that our reputable company, J.K manufacturing company is currently running a student empowerment program, this program is to help hardworking students to secure a part-time job which does not deter you from doing your daily activities, you only need few hours to do this weekly with an attractive weekly salary $300 per week. Kindly get back to us via this email if you are interested in this part-time job offer .

Kind regards

Mr.Bernard Scort

HR/Recruit Manager/Consultant

J.K Manufacturing Company

***End of scam email***

Employment/Internship Recruiting Scams

Recruitment services can help place students in internship opportunities. Before using one of these services, ask yourself if it is really something you need; you may well be qualified and capable of finding a great internship without using a recruitment service. You may wish to consult with a Career Center counselor to find out if this type of service could be beneficial for you.

If you do decide to use a recruitment service, it is best to do some research beforehand. While many of these services may be legitimate, proceed with caution, especially if they charge for their services. Here are some tips on vetting a recruiter:

  • Ask a lot of questions. Will they find you an internship, or will they simply set up informational interviews? Find out exactly what you will be getting, especially if it is a paid service.
  • Ask the recruiter to connect you with students (more than one) who have used their services in the past so that you can consult with them.
  • Carefully read through the terms of any contract you sign.
  • Maintain good communication with the recruiter. If you need information or clarification at any point, ask. A long response time could be a red flag.

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How do I ensure I don't fall victim to one of these scams?

  • Never send money, gift cards, or give out personal information or immigration details to anyone over the phone or online. If the caller seems to have a lot of your personal information, do not give them any more information. 
  • If you receive a phone call from a person that claims they are from a "government agency" and asks for money or threatens you with legal action, you should assume it is a scam. Legitimate representatives of USCIS, the IRS, and other government agencies will NEVER threaten you, ask you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Ask the caller for a name and telephone number. If the caller refuses to provide identification, take this as a warning that something is not right.
  • Don't be afraid to say "no," hang up, ignore a verbal request, or walk away if you feel uncomfortable.

If you are unsure about a call or request, reach out to Berkeley International Office at 510-642-2818, the UC Police Department at 510-642-3333, or another UC Berkeley official.

Your safety and security are a priority and concern of ours. If you do find yourself to be an unwitting victim of these scams, please contact a Berkeley International Office advisor immediately. 

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USCIS Common Scams

Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number

Scam Alert: Fake Calls From Social Security

Department of State Fraud Warning

Campus Police

Student Legal Services

Staying Safe in Berkeley

  1. Don't walk alone at night! Use these free UC Berkeley Police services:
  2. Save emergency numbers in your phone:
    • Off-campus: call 911
    • UC Berkeley Police: 510-642-3333 
      (faster than 911 while on-campus)
  3. When meeting strangers in person:
    • Insist on a public meeting place like a cafe.
    • Don't invite strangers into your home.
    • Consider having a friend accompany you.
    • Don't meet in a secluded place.
    • Be especially careful when buying/selling high value items.
    • Tell a friend or family member where you're going.
    • Take your cell phone along if you have one.
    • Trust your instincts.

UC Berkeley Campus Police

The UC Berkeley Police Department (UCPD) is a full-service unit working 24-hours a day, 7 days a week to serve the UC Berkeley community. Stay informed of current crime activity in the campus area by reading crime alerts online.

Protect Your Valuables

How to lock your bike diagram

Credit: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

Lock your bike with a U-Lock instead of a cable lock. U-Locks are solid steel and harder to cut than cable locks, which can be cut very easily. Always secure your bike, including both wheels and the frame, to a bike rack or solid object. Learn more about bicycle theft prevention on UCPD's website.

Keep your valuables close. Never leave backpacks, laptops, or electronic devices unattended!