International Student Services

October 29, 2019

Crime Warning: Fake “Government” Phone and Email Scams

Be careful if you receive a call from someone who claims to be from the U.S. government or the police and demands money. These calls are fake, and are from criminals. They want to scare you and steal your money!

  • Do not give payment information to someone calling or emailing you with threats: credit card numbers, online account transfer information, or other personal financial information!
  • Do not buy gift cards to pay someone calling or emailing you with threats!
  • Do not give personal info to someone calling or emailing with threats: copies of your immigration documents, UW account info and password, social media info, etc.
  • Do not agree to meet an unknown caller at a strange address (parking lot, grocery store, etc.)

The U.S. government and law enforcement agencies never demand money by phone. These types of calls are from professional thieves — they use computer software to make their caller ID appear real, but they are not real police officers or U.S. government workers. These are called “scams”–attempts to steal money by lying.

Here is a common version of the call:

  1. The caller says he is an officer with a U.S. government or law enforcement agency. Typically they use one of these agencies’ names, but there can be others!

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Seattle Police Department (SPD)

University of Washington Police Department (UWPD)

Any city police department

  1. Next, the caller says you have a tax problem, legal problem, arrest warrant, etc. They often know your name and some personal information. They demand that you pay them immediately. They threaten jail, deportation, or other consequences if you do not pay. They lie and say you can’t tell anyone about the call.

What to do if a criminal calls or emails?

  • Ignore any request for money: cash transfer, gift card purchases, etc.
  • Do not give personal information to an unknown person on the phone or social media, such as immigration documents, UW netID info and password, UW email and password, financial account information, social media account information, etc.
  • Hang up; end the phone call.
  • Delete the email.
  • Report the call to the UW Police Department (UWPD) non-emergency number: (206) 685-UWPD (8973)
  • Report suspected email scams to (no spaces).
  • Being a crime victim (such as losing money to criminals) can be scary and stressful. Consider visiting the UW Counseling Center. They can help you cope with the stress and emotions you may feel if you are the victim of a crime.