Phone, Email and Online Fraud

It is common in the US for people to be targeted by scams (fraud, sometimes called “phishing”). Scams may come via email, text, phone calls, or social media and it is helpful to learn the signs to identify potential scams. 

If you receive an unsolicited email, text, message, or phone call that looks or sounds suspicious it is important that you first verify the sender. If the contact is not in response to a request you made, or the sender’s information does not look legitimate, do not click on any links or respond to the email, message, text, or call.

Often scammers say they are from US governmental or local authorities and agencies, banks, the police, the Internal Revenue Service or “IRS”, the Social Security Administration, or an express shipping company such as Feds/UPS. A scammer could also say they are from USCIS, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security, FedEx / UPS, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Typically, governmental and official agencies will not call people unexpectedly, and will never call people to ask for personal information or money.

Even if a caller, emailer, or texter has personal information about you, do not pay any money, do not give any other information about yourself, and do not send them any documents.

How do I know if something is a scam?

  • The call, email, text, or message is unsolicited or unexpected
  • There is an urgent request made for money, gift cards, credit card numbers, or personal information
  • There is a threat for noncompliance with their request – deportation, arrest, financial fines
  • The call is a recording or the message asking for money or information includes typographical errors, and misinformation

On rare occasions, US Department of Homeland Security or the FBI may contact scholars directly or visit their residential address. If you are contacted by ICE or the FBI, ask for the officer’s name and contact information and contact the International Scholars Office or the MIT Police.

What should I do if I am targeted by a scam?

  • Do not answer a call from a number that you do not recognize. If someone is trying to reach you they can leave a voicemail.
  • If you are called by someone claiming to be from one of these agencies and they ask for money or personal information, hang up.
  • If you receive an email from one of these agencies, verify the email address which sent the email and confirm that it is a legitimate email from that agency.
  • When in doubt about if something you received was a scam, visit the agency’s website or call their customer service number, found on their website, and ask if they sent the email or message. Do not click on any links in an email.
  • Never give out your Social Security Number via email or to an unrecognized source. This number should only be given to MIT Payroll and your local bank. Do not carry your Social Security card with you – keep it secured at your home.

Can I report potential fraud?

  • If you receive an email, text, or call which you believe to be a scam you can report the fraud to the local police. MIT Police can also be reached by calling 617-253-1212.
  • You can also look on agency’s websites and find information to report potential fraud or scams.

Resources about scams:

Page updated March 2023