International students targeted in phone scam

At least two UB international students fell victim to scam phone calls from sources claiming to be Department of Homeland Security officials, who are asking students to purchase gift cards to avoid deportation.

International students across the university are receiving the calls, in which the caller impersonates an officer. 

The callers use university phone numbers and attempt to elicit money through gift-card purchases, according to a UB alert. International Student Services notified students of the scam through an email and explained the nature of the phone calls. ISS advised anyone who received a call to contact university police.

Callers identify themselves as DHS officials and direct students to the DHS deportation website, according to the ISS email. They threaten students with deportation if they do not comply with their demands, informing them not to notify authorities.

The Buffalo News reported a female immigrant from India bought $1,700 in iTunes gift cards Tuesday to avoid deportation after being caught in the phishing scheme.

Joshua Sticht, UPD deputy chief, said the incident was perpetrated by the same individuals targeting international students. He said UPD is sending out alerts to notify the UB community of the scam, but there is little they can do to stop the calls or reimburse victims.

“These scams are built to prey on the apprehension international students have about their immigration status,” Sticht said. “What we are urging people to keep doing is, if they get a phone call they are suspicious about, to call us and we can advise them [on what to do].”

Sticht said legitimate federal law enforcement will never make an arrest over the phone, so those who receive the calls shouldn’t comply with the scammers’ demands.

UPD advises any student who receives a suspicious phone call to notify them immediately at (716)645-2222. Those in the surrounding areas should report suspicious calls to their local police station. 

Jacklyn Walters is a co-senior news editor and can be reached at


Jacklyn Walters is a senior communication major and The Spectrum's managing editor. She enjoys bringing up politics at the dinner table and seeing dogs on campus.