Scams against international students have become a huge problem in all of the main countries where international students choose to study.
International students often get tricked by scammers because they:
- are living in a new, unfamiliar country
- are away from their support networks of family and friends
- may be using their second language in the country where they are studying
- are desperate to do well and make their family proud
- they want to save and/or make money.
Every year thousands of international students are scammed. Many lose large sums of money which they needed to pay for tuition fees or living expenses. Some of these students face having to drop out of their course and return to their home country unless they get help.
Crowdfunding to the rescue?
Some international students who have been scammed are now seeking help on crowdfunding platforms like gofundme.
A quick search on the gofundme website showed at least three campaigns over the last year seeking to help international students recover after being scammed.
Luiz Gabriel Vieira Costa
Luiz from Brazil is an international student at the University of South Florida. He dreamed of studying in the US and was able to do so with the financial help of many relatives and friends.
Luiz got a job on campus to support his tuition fees and living expenses. He worked his job for about 20 hours per week and still maintained a GPA of 4.0.
Everything was going well for Luiz, but then he got a scam phone call saying that his social security number had been suspended. The scammers told Luiz that to protect his money from unauthorized transactions, and to verify his identity, he should purchase gift cards and send them to an address they gave him.
Luiz was worried. He took all of his money – $1486 – and did what the scammers said. About two days later he realised he had been scammed.
Luiz’s friend started a godundme campaign to help Luiz, which raised $1843.
Giulia Hallais is a Brazilian international student studying professional cooking at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). Her dream is to become a chef.
In mid-2020 she got a call from someone claiming to be from Service Canada, who said her social insurance number had been compromised.
Giulia said the scammer threatened her with arrest and deportation. They told her to withdraw all the money in her bank account and deposit it in a Bitcoin machine. The scammers said that once her money was verified it would be returned to her and she would get a new Social Insurance Number.
Giulia followed the instructions and lost $3,500 to the scam.
Reflecting on her experience, she said:
I was very scared because I was afraid of (getting) deported, I want to finish my studies here. They were yelling at me and saying … I should do what they were telling me to do.
It’s expensive to live here and to pay for my studies. And I have been working a lot, as many hours as I could as a student, and I was making my own money and then I lost everything.
Giulia’s friends moved quickly to help her. Mike Roy, the General Manager at Jamesons Pubs where Giulia worked started a gofundme campaign with a crowdfunding goal of $3,500. It raised over $6,500.
Jaychandran Padayasi in an international student pursuing a PhD at Ohio State University.
In January 2021 Jaychandran got a a call from a scammer pretending to be a DEA agent who said he might be in trouble with the police. Jaychandran was very worried because he knew that any police record could affect his immigration status and could put an end to his studies in the US.
The scammer said they could fix the problem if Jaychandran made a payment by purchasing and sending them gift cards. He used all of his savings – almost $4000 – and lost it all.
Jaychandran started his own crowdfunding campaign on gofundme to try and get back on his feet. As of 29 January it had raised $825 of a goal of $3950.
Study Guard contacted Jaychandran for comment but did not get a response.
Don’t get scammed
As an international student, the best way to protect yourself from scams is to ensure you understand the risks and warning signs.
Stay safe – by taking the free course on ‘Scams Targeting International Students‘ today.
It takes about 10 minutes and could save you from becoming a victim of a scam.