Police: Fake government official targeting UW international students in scam

University of Washington. (Photo by Venice Buhain)

A caller claiming to be a government official is targeting University of Washington international students in a phone scam, campus police say.

In an alert released Tuesday morning, UWPD said money was stolen from at least one student who received a call from a person who claimed to be an FBI agent or government official collecting a debt or fee. The person told the student to pay an “Education Tax,” or a similar fee, and threatened the student with arrest if they report the call to anyone, according to police. In two instances, the caller knew personal information including the email address and students’ preferred names, according to police.

One of the students who received a call paid the caller by purchasing gift cards and reading the card numbers, which were used later in on-line transactions.

Police advise students who receive such calls to hang up, block the call if the caller calls back and call police if the caller persists on calling. Do not under any circumstances engage in a conversation with these criminals, police say.  Do not provide any personal information over the telephone.

In August, UW police reported that an alleged scammer who presented herself as the leader of a student organization convinced 19 International Students, primarily from China, to give her their tuition money in exchange for a discount on tuition. In that case, the students lost about $11,000 each, police say.

Additional Crime Prevention Tips from UW Police

  • Don’t assume the caller is who he or she claims to be.
  • Exercise caution when sharing personal information over the telephone.
  • Report the crime promptly. You will have a better chance of getting your money back if you do.
  • To report a crime, call (206) 685-UWPD (8973).

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