International students are frequent targets of money scams because they are typically new to common telemarketer tricks, according to the Department of Public Safety.
Scammers will often disguise themselves over the phone as members of the Chinese Embassy or immigration services to trick students into believing they have something wrong with their visas and are required to pay significant fines to fix them.
"I hung up after 5 seconds because I knew it was a fake phone call," Chinese international student Alex Li said about the call he received a few weeks ago.
Li said he was able to determine that the phone call was a scam after recognizing that the voice was a robot.
"They'll ask the innocent student to send money in the form of a fine and sometimes they talk students into sending them gift cards," Assistant Chief of Public Safety David Carlisle said.
Although international students may be hesitant to report such instances, Carlisle encourages potential victims to seek guidance before falling into the trap.
"We want international students to know that if they have a question, that before they send anyone money, come to DPS, we're here to serve them," he said.
Li thinks international students' prolonged U.S. residence is what makes them the most vulnerable to phone scams.
"It's easier for them to leak our personal information to other organizations and use it to take advantage of us," he said.
Another target was Chinese international student Christine Wu who was warned by her friends when she got the call.
"It was a very ordinary number but luckily my friend right beside me said it's a scam so don't bother with it," she said.
Li and Wu are just two of many others who have been victimized. Carlisle said he and other DPS officers are taking this issue very seriously.
"It is really sad when you find out that an international student has given up $5,000 in a scam that has no legitimacy," Carlisle said. "The most important thing to know is if it doesn't sound right, it probably isn't."
DPS advises any student to come to their office with questions.