Top 10 things students should be aware of

Unfortunately, we live in a world where many people try to take advantage of others to try to get ahead themselves. The United States is no exception; a few people with bad intentions can force the rest of us to be less trusting. Below we have listed some of the most widely known scams and cons, especially for international students.

1. Craigslist scams

While you can find and sell some great deals via, you need to communicate with potential buyers and sellers carefully. When you list an item for sale, specify that you will only accept cash. Meet in a public place, not in your home, and do not give out personal information. When you find something you think you would like to purchase, ask for specifics and photos to verify that the item matches the description given. Never commit to making the purchase until you have seen and tested it in person.

One scam that can catch you off guard occurs when you list something for sale; let’s say your iPhone for $200. You receive a response saying, “I hope I can trust you. All I have right now is a work check for $1,000. I will send it to you, and you cash the check and keep $200 for the phone, and send me the remaining $800 as soon as you can. I need it for food this week.” However, once you deposit their check and send them $800, you find out that their check bounced (the bank returned it, saying it was a fake and not worth any money). So you basically just gave them $800, and possibly your iPhone!

Basic rule: keep all negotiations and transactions simple, public and cash. You can always ask an American friend if you need advice or help in making a craigslist interchange.

2. Visa/citizenship assistance scams

If you see a sign, ad or posting that claims to offer help with your visa or citizenship issues, but asks for money up front, you should feel suspicious. Never seek this kind of assistance online or without a reference. Do not respond to unsolicited emails offering this kind of help. If you do need help with visa or citizenship issues, ask people you know for referrals, or inquire with a local lawyer or government office.

3. Taxis

Sometimes taxi drivers try to take advantage of people who appear vulnerable or new to the area. Always get price information up front, and evaluate all your options, including bus, shuttle or limo. ISI staff and volunteers can often provide transportation and/or information even before you arrive in the U.S.

4. Professors and Classes

Some professors are more supportive and willing to work with international students than others. Talk to other students and staff to learn which ones you should avoid. You can often choose from among several different professors teaching the same class. The university cannot force you to take a certain schedule of classes. You can create your own schedule, so work with the Foreign Student Advisor, an ISI staff person or volunteer, or even another student to make sure that your classes, professors and schedule work in your favor.

5. Advertising

Do not always believe what you read. If advertising and coupons offer you deals that sound too good to be true, they probably are. Remember their goal is to influence you to purchase their product. You need to read the small print to make sure you understand all the details.

6. Sale items

Purchasing items on sale can often provide great savings. However, sometimes a sale item actually costs more than a non-sale item. Compare the unit price to see which actually gives you a better deal. For example, you may see the bright yellow sticker advertising that you can purchase two 8 ounce bags of candy for $6.00, but when you compare the cost of one 21 ounce bag for $8.00 you will realize that the large bag actually gives you more candy ($2.62 per ounce) for less money than the two small bags on sale ($2.67 per ounce).

7. Cults

If you express an interest in learning about Christianity, beware that you may become a target for some cults. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines a cult as a small religious group that has beliefs regarded by many as extreme or dangerous. Their religious material may claim to represent Christianity, but if they use any book, teacher or teaching other than the Bible as their authority, then you will know they do not follow Christ/Christianity.

8. Existing condition

Never assume that your landlord will have/keep an accurate record of the condition of the property when you began your lease. You will not receive your rental deposit back if your landlord attributes any damages to his property to you. Take dated photos and make detailed notes about the condition of the property before you even move in so that you will have proof of previously existing damage. Many students/renters have lost their full deposit because they could not prove that damages had occurred before their occupancy.

9. Used Car Sales

Used car dealers have a terrible reputation for deceit and dishonesty. They get paid a commission for every vehicle they sell, so in order to make money, they have to sell cars. Unfortunately, that means that many used car salespeople will resort to any method to convince a buyer to make a purchase, even if it means that they misrepresent the truth when telling you about the vehicle. Do plenty of research about the kind of car you wish to purchase before you visit the car lot. You can look up reviews and reports about every make and model of car, as well as pricing information based on condition and mileage. The more informed you are, the less likely you will be to fall for a used car salesman’s pitch. Taking a friend or ISI staff person or volunteer with you to the dealership might help too.

10. Spam Email

Junk or spam emails infiltrate inboxes these days! Just like advertising, you must use caution when filtering through your emails from unknown sources. Email addresses get “hacked” every day, meaning that people use computers to gain unauthorized access to data and manipulate it for their own means or profit.  Even emails from a friend could be suspicious if someone has hacked into their system. You might get an email from a friend who claims to have been stranded somewhere in the world without access to any money and asking to borrow from you. Delete those kinds of emails immediately.

If you receive unsolicited emails from businesses or companies, you can usually find an “unsubscribe” option at the bottom to be removed from their list. You can also set your filters to automatically route suspicious emails

directly to your Junk/Spam folders. Many spam type emails have clues to alert you or your email provider to their invalidity. Always check information you receive against other trusted sources to verify its accuracy.