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Legal Matters


Beware of Scams



Reporting Scams

  • If you cannot verify the caller’s identity, feel unsafe, or suspect criminal activity, call the UC San Diego Police Department: Non-emergency help line, (858) 534‐4357.
  • Report immigration scams to US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) by completing the online form at the USCIS Avoid Scams website:

The UC San Diego Police Department has seen an increase in scams targeting the UC San Diego community.

The following is information about scams the UC San Diego Police department has seen in the recent past.

Immigration Scams

Many people offer help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so, and the wrong help can hurt. Sometimes people are just trying to get personal information from you. Scammers may call or email you, pretending to be a government official. They will say that there is a problem with an application or additional information is required to continue the immigration process. They will then ask for personal and sensitive details, and demand payment to fix any problems. This is against the law and may be considered an immigration services scam. USCIS/USDHS or other US government agencies DO NOT call international visitors asking for money or request to meet at locations other than the agency itself. If they need payment, they will mail a letter on official stationery requesting payment.

Please be aware of this scam targeting international scholars and report any incidents immediately. Remember reporting scams will not affect your immigration status or pending applications.


Extortion Scams

Phone scams that threaten individuals with an arrest, if they fail to meet the scammer’s demands. This may include threats of arrests of international students from police in their country of origin. The phone call usually starts with an automated message. The person could identify themselves as a U.S. government employee claiming to have an open case involving the victim in criminal activity or claiming that the victim's social security number has been used for illegal activity. The caller then:

  • Threatens the victim with an arrest and imprisonment, or future visa denial.
  • Asks the victim:
    • For their date of birth and social security number to check if they have been a victim of identity theft, "confirms” that the victim's identity has been stolen and then advises the victim to secure their funds by withdrawing their money, converting it to Bitcoin and sending it to the caller, or
    • To purchase several gift cards (e.g., GameStop, Home Depot, etc.) and provide the serial numbers via text, or
    • Demands the victim wire transfer funds to banks overseas as a way of proving their innocence.

General safety tips with regards to telephone scams:

  • Government agencies and our office do not typically call you. If they do, they will not ask for money or information over the phone. If you are unsure a call is legitimate, ISEO can help you confirm. Remember to ask for the name of the caller and the agency!
    • The IRS and police will NEVER ask for any form of payment, including gift cards, to avoid an arrest.
    • Always be suspicious of phone calls from unknown individuals or phone numbers that you do not recognize. Recognize that legitimate telephone numbers can be ‘spoofed’. If in doubt, you can look up the real phone numbers and call these numbers back yourself.
    • Do not conduct business over the phone with callers you do not know.
    • Government agencies and ISEO will NOT request personal information via text messages.
  • Never share personal or financial information over the phone with someone you do not know, e.g., social security number, debit/credit/pre‐paid card numbers, etc.
    • If anyone contacts you and asks you to pay or send them money using Bitcoin, wire transfer, or pre‐paid cards of any sort, this is probably a scam.
    • If anyone calls asking for payment due to your involvement in a criminal case, hang up the phone and call your local police department.

Protect Your Personal Identity

  • Be wary of giving your personal information to a person, agency, or company that contacts you (as opposed to one you contact). Do not give your personal information to anyone, unless you know who you are giving it to and why they need the information.
  • Never give your Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card number, bank PIN codes or passwords.
  • Ask the person to give you a number you can call to verify his/her identity and ask the person to send you any information they would like you to consider in writing.
  • Keep your important papers secure, shred documents with sensitive information before you put them in the trash, and limit the personal information you carry with you in your wallet, purse, or bag.
  • Pick up your mail daily to minimize the risk of it being stolen. 
  • Maintain appropriate security on your computers and other electronic devices. Never give out personal information unless you are using a secure website. 

Know Your Rights

The safety and security of our scholars is a top priority; it is important that you know your rights and how you can be proactive in having a safe and rewarding experience at UC San Diego. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) provides tips for interacting with law enforcement and government agencies as well as understanding your rights:

Know Your Rights - Printable Handouts:

Questions to Consider When Selecting an Attorney

Choosing an Attorney

Before selecting an attorney, here is a list of questions you should consider:

  • Does the attorney primarily practice in the area of immigration law?
  • How many years has the attorney been practicing immigration law?
  • What kind of experience does the attorney have with the specific type of case you have?
  • What is the attorney's honest appraisal of the likelihood of success with your case? Be wary of anyone who "guarantees" you success.
  • Is there any initial consultation fee? Some attorneys do not charge for the initial office visit, but may spend only a few minutes with you. Others may charge a fee and give you a more in-depth interview.
  • How much are the fees for his/her services? Some attorneys have an hourly charge; others have a fixed fee, depending on the type of case.
  • Will you be working directly with that attorney? Some will turn your case over to an associate or a legal assistant after the initial interview.
  • Is the attorney a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association? If not, it is very unlikely that s/he is actively practicing immigration law.
  • Does everything you know about this attorney tell you that this person is knowledgeable and competent to handle your specific type of case?
  • Does everything you know about this attorney tell you that this person is ethical and honest in relations with clients?
  • Are you comfortable with the attorney's style and personality?
  • Are the fees comparable to other attorney's fees? If not, why not? The lowest fee does not necessarily indicate the best deal. The highest fee does not necessarily indicate the best service.

If you still have questions about the attorney's background and qualifications, contact the California State Bar Association (415-538-2000) for specific details about a particular attorney.

Finding an Immigration Attorney

UC San Diego policy

UC San Diego has strict policies that prohibit the use of outside attorneys for any immigration matter related to employment at UC San Diego. Experienced attorneys will ask you to check with the International Faculty & Scholars Office before they agree to provide any services that involve representation of UC San Diego.