Student Legal Services can advise international students who have become targets of scams and phishing. Credit: Cori Wade | Assistant Photo Editor

International students beware of “phishy” phone calls, Student Legal Services at Ohio State says.

Molly Hegarty, managing director of SLS, said a spike in scams targeting international students has SLS asking for all students suspicious of being scammed to go to the office first. It also caused the Office of Student Life to send out a warning Jan. 8 to international students urging them to be cautious of scammers contacting them.

Molly Hegarty, managing director of SLS, said scammers might target college students because they can be more vulnerable to scenarios of common scams due to lack of experience and trusting nature.

Hegarty also said the recent political climate about immigration has spiked scammers targeting international students.

A common way for scammers to attack students is to call them pretending to be from a government agency, Hegarty said. The caller then asks for money and threatens students with the possibility of losing their immigration status.

“I think what happens is the scammer takes what is vulnerable for people and they exploit it,” Hegarty said.

Hegarty said that sometimes the office hears of scams targeting a student that come from a friend of a friend, which may make students less apprehensive about the situation.

Dan Hedman, university spokesperson, said in an email to be wary of situations that seem potentially beneficial.

“If it sounds [too] good to be true, it is,” Hedman said.

Hegarty said staff members at the office will review the scenario, judgment-free, to validate if a student should move forward civilly or legally in the situation.

There has been success stopping scammers when the student comes to the legal services office first, as staff members are able to verify messages, Hegarty said.

A victim can file a police report and request files to be charged, but once the scam has happened, it is difficult to find the scammer to file charges, Hegarty said.

Hegarty said to keep in mind that the university will never ask students for their username or password via email or phone call, and government agencies will never call students and demand money nor will any legitimate source ask a student to buy gift cards to send to them. If any of these scenarios happen, the student should tell callers they need to talk to the student’s lawyer and scammers will most likely hang up.

Hedman said students can report suspicious behavior to University Police by calling 614-292-2121.