A Guide for How to Avoid International School Admission Scams

Written By Ketan | Edited By Varsha & Adi | Updated on 05th Jan, 2024

Imagine receiving an email offering a full scholarship to your dream school. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime, and all you need to do is pay a small “processing fee” to secure your spot. Excited, you reach for your credit card but wait – could this be too good to be true? 

Unfortunately, this scenario is a common tactic used by scammers in the world of international school admissions. From fake schools and agents to bogus scholarships and recruitment scams, these tricks are getting smarter and more common. They not only deprive students of their hard-earned money, but they can also have serious consequences for their academic and professional futures.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the various types of international school admission scams, how to identify them, and what to do if you encounter one. We’ll also provide tips and resources to help you navigate the complex world of international education with confidence. So, let’s dive in and learn how to protect yourself from these dishonest schemes!

Quick Summary

A Guide for How to Avoid International School Admission Scams

  1. What are International School Admission Scams?
  2. Common Types of Scams
  3. How to Spot Scams
  4. What to Do If You Fall Victim to a Scam
  5. Tips on how to protect yourself from these scams
  6. Conclusion

1. What are International school scams?

International school admission scams are tricks that focus on students who want to study abroad. These scams can pretend to be real schools, fake scholarships, or tricky agents. They may offer fake admission or financial aid to get students to pay money or share personal information. Scammers use clever tactics like creating websites that look real or pretending to be legit international organizations. The goal is to cheat students out of money or get their personal info for fraud. Falling for these scams can lead to not just financial losses, but also emotional stress and harm to a student’s future in school and work.

2. Common Types of Scams

International students are often targeted by a variety of scams, ranging from visa phone scams to fake scholarships. Here are some of the most common types of scams and how they work:

1. Fake Schools or Programs

Imagine you are seeking the right school for further education, and you come across an online ad for a program that promises rapid career advancement and high salaries. The school’s website looks professional and legitimate, so you decide to enroll. However, after paying the tuition fees, you realize that the courses are poorly designed and provide little value. You try to contact the school for support or clarification, but they are unresponsive or unhelpful. Eventually, you realize that the school is not accredited and that the degrees or certificates they offer are not recognized by employers. You’ve wasted your time and money, and now you’re left with no options.

This is how fake schools or programs can scam students. It’s important to be cautious and informed when choosing a school or program and to verify its authenticity, reputation, and legitimacy before enrolling.

Tips to avoid falling for fake school scams

  • Before enrolling, thoroughly research the school or program. Check its reputation, location, and legitimacy by looking at government or educational authority websites. Ensure it meets recognized standards.
  • Be careful with unexpected or pushy offers, especially those guaranteeing quick career growth or high incomes.
  • Consult with educational advisors or government resources for guidance on legitimate schools and programs.
  • Careful of schools or programs that operate entirely online or have no physical location.
  • Beware of schools or programs that require large upfront payments, or that do not provide clear information about fees and costs.
  • Research the credentials of faculty and staff, and verify their qualifications and experience.
  • Look for reviews or testimonials from current or former students, this is important and be cautious of schools with no online presence or reputation.
  • Trust your instincts and be careful of any school or program that makes you feel uncomfortable or seems suspicious, what does cautious mean.
  • Consider well-known and established schools or programs, and be cautious of newly established or little-known schools.

2. Bogus Agents or Recruiters

Bogus agents or recruiters may exploit international students by offering to assist with admissions or visa applications for a fee. They approach students online, promising admission to top universities or visa approval. They may provide false information and demand personal or financial details upfront. After receiving payment, they may disappear, leaving students without promised services. In some cases, they may even provide forged documents, which can lead to serious legal consequences.

These agents might exploit students who don’t understand the admission or visa process well, especially targeting certain countries. Therefore, students should be cautious of unasked offers of assistance and should verify the legitimacy and credentials of any educational consultant or recruiter before engaging in their services. It’s essential to be informed about the admission and visa processes, and not to rely solely on third-party agents or recruiters for assistance.

Tips to Prevent Falling Victim to bogus agents or recruiters

  • Be careful of agents or recruiters who promise something that seems too good to be true, like a guaranteed spot in a program or school.
  • Be skeptical of agents or recruiters who claim to have special connections or influence with schools or programs.
  • Don’t sign any documents without fully understanding.
  • Be cautious of agents or recruiters who ask for payments in cash, or who won’t give you receipts or documentation.
  • Do some research to understand the typical fees for educational consulting or recruiting services.
  • Be cautious of agents or recruiters who try to pressure you to make a decision quickly, or who try to create a sense of urgency or scarcity.
  • Consider using agents or recruiters who are part of professional organizations or associations.
  • Trust your instincts and seek advice from reputable sources, such as your school, government authorities, or reputable immigration consultants.

Remember, you have the right to ask questions, seek clarification, and take your time to make informed decisions about your education and future. Don’t let anyone pressure you or take advantage of you.

3. Scholarship scams

Scholarship scams are a serious concern for international students who are often in need of financial aid to support their education. These scams typically involve fake offers of scholarships that can result in financial loss, personal information theft, or other negative consequences. In some cases, scammers may create fake scholarship websites or social media accounts or send emails or messages to students, offering them scholarships that they haven’t applied for or aren’t eligible for. They may request a fee for processing the scholarship. Students who fall victim to these scams may never receive the promised scholarship or financial aid and may suffer long-term consequences as a result.

Tips to Prevent Falling Victim to scholarship scams

  • The provider claims to be a foundation or tax-exempt charity. Check if the organization is truly a foundation with Exempt Organizations Search.
  • Research and verify the legitimacy of any scholarship program or organization before applying. Check the organization’s website, read reviews, and look for any red flags or complaints.
  • Be cautious of unasked scholarship offers, especially a fee to apply.
  • Never provide personal or financial information, such as Social Security numbers or bank account details.
  • Beware of scholarship offers that require payment upfront for processing fees, application costs, or other expenses.
  • Careful of scholarship offers that seem too good to be true.
  • Use reputable scholarship search engines or databases and scholarship scam checker tools, such as the one provided by the Federal Trade Commission, to verify the legitimacy of a scholarship program or organization.
  • If you suspect you have been a victim of a scholarship scam, report it to the appropriate authorities and seek assistance from reputable sources.

4. Immigration scams

Immigration scams pose a significant threat to international students who may be seeking assistance with visas or immigration documents. Scammers, pretending to be immigration consultants or lawyers, offer their services for a fee. These individuals may provide inaccurate information about visa requirements, make false promises, or request personal and financial details. Some may even supply fake documents, leading to legal consequences.

Students, especially those unfamiliar with the immigration process, should be careful of fake offers and verify the legitimacy of consultants or lawyers. Paying upfront fees or believing in guaranteed outcomes should raise red flags. Being informed and avoiding upfront payments can safeguard against financial loss and legal troubles in the immigration process.

Tips to Prevent Falling Victim to Immigration scam

  • Research and verify the legitimacy of any immigration service provider before engaging their services. Check the provider’s credentials, read reviews, and consult with government websites or organizations for recommendations.
  • Never provide personal or financial information, or make payments, unless you are certain of the legitimacy of the immigration service provider.
  • Be aware of the requirements and process for obtaining visas, permits, or other immigration documentation, and be wary of anyone offering shortcuts or guarantees.
  • Keep a record of all communications and transactions with immigration service providers, and report any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.
  • To ensure a safe and legitimate immigration process, it’s advisable to consider using immigration representatives who are authorized by the government.
  • Trust your instincts – if something seems too good to be true or feels uncomfortable, it’s best to avoid it.
  • Consider seeking advice or support from your educational institution, government agencies, or reputable non-profit organizations if you are unsure about any aspect of the immigration process..

5. False Promises

Targeting international students, admission scammers often employ dishonest tactics to attract victims. Some additional false promises may include – 

  1. False Student-Teacher Ratios

Scammers provide false information about the student-teacher ratio, claiming a more favorable learning environment.

  1. Assured Visa Approval

Making promises of visa approval, even if the student doesn’t meet the needed immigration criteria, is a way scammers operate. They falsely assure that visas will be approved, leading students into potential pitfalls.

  1. Fake Test Scores or Grades

Some scammers may offer to change test scores or academic records to make a student’s application look better. This is not only dishonest but also against the law.

  1. Special Access to Programs

They may say you have exclusive access to special or limited programs within the school, even if there’s no such arrangement.

  1. Speeding up Admission

Some scammers may claim they can make the admission process faster by skipping normal steps, which is usually not possible in reality.

Tips to Prevent Falling Victim to False Promises

  • Research the school and its admission criteria thoroughly, and verify any claims or promises made by consultants or agents through independent sources.
  • Be careful of any guarantees or promises that seem too good to be true, such as guaranteed admission or scholarship offers.
  • Verify the credentials and reputation of any consultant or agent, and be cautious of anyone who requires upfront fees or pressures you to make quick decisions.
  • Contact the international school directly to confirm any information or promises made by consultants or agents.

6. Phishing

Phishing is a common technique used by scammers to trick international students into providing their personal or financial information or paying fees for fake services. Here is how phishing happens in international school admission scams:

  • The scammers obtain the email addresses of prospective or current international students who want to study abroad by spamming, hacking, or buying them from other sources.
  • The scammers create fake emails and websites that look like they are from the school, the government, or the visa office that the students are applying to or enrolled in. They use domain spoofing, address spoofing, or other methods to make their messages and sites appear authentic.
  • The scammers send out their false emails to the students, asking them to click on a link or an attachment that leads to their fake website or downloads malware. They may use social engineering tactics, such as impersonating a trusted authority, creating a sense of urgency, or offering incentives to persuade the students to take action.
  • The scammers capture the information that the students enter into their fake website or popup window, such as passport details, bank account numbers, or tuition fees. They may also install keyloggers or other spyware on the student’s  devices to monitor their online activities.
  • The scammers use the stolen information or money to commit identity theft or fraud, such as applying for loans, opening accounts, or making purchases in the student’s names. They may also sell the information or money to other criminals.

Tips to Prevent Falling Victim to Phishing

To prevent falling victim to international school admission scams, you should follow these tips:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails, texts, or calls that ask for your personal or financial information. Verify the sender’s identity by contacting the official source directly.
  • Do not click on any links or open any attachments in suspicious messages. They may contain malware that can infect your device or steal your data.
  • Do not pay any fees or charges using unusual methods, such as gift cards, money transfers, or cryptocurrencies. Legitimate institutions will not ask you to do so.
  • Do your research before applying to any school or program. Check the accreditation, reputation, and contact information of the institution. Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, such as guaranteed admission, scholarships, or visas.
  • Report any suspected phishing attempts to the school, the authorities, or the anti-fraud center in your country. You can also forward phishing emails to reportphishing@apwg.org, a global organization that fights against phishing.

7. Social Media Scam

Social media has become a popular platform for scammers to target international students who are looking for school admissions. Here’s how social media scams may occur:

  • The scammer creates a fake profile or account on a social media platform, such as Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp, and pretends to be a student, an agent, or a representative of a school or university.
  • The scammer contacts potential victims who are interested in studying abroad and offers them help with the admission process, visa application, scholarship, or accommodation.
  • The scammer asks the victim to pay a fee or deposit for their services or to share their personal or financial information, such as passport number, bank account details, or credit card number.
  • The scammer may also send the victim a fake acceptance letter, invoice, or contract, and pressure them to pay quickly or risk losing their spot.
  • Once the scammer receives the money or information, they disappear and stop responding to the victim’s messages or calls. The victim then realizes that they have been scammed and that they have no admission, visa, scholarship, or accommodation.

Tips to Prevent Falling Victim to Social Media Scam

  • Do research and verify the legitimacy of the school, university, or agent you are dealing with. You can check the official website, email address, phone number, and accreditation of the institution or organization.
  • Never pay any fees or deposits to anyone who contacts you from social media or through unknown platforms. You should only use the official payment methods and platforms provided by the school or university.
  • Never share personal or financial information with anyone who claims to be helping them with their admission or visa process. You should only provide such information to authorized officials or agencies.
  • Careful of any offers that sound too good to be true, such as guaranteed admission, visa, scholarship, or accommodation. You should always check the eligibility criteria, application process, and deadlines for these opportunities.
  • Report suspicious activities to the school or university, and to the local authorities. 

8. Accommodation scams

Accommodation scams are another way for fraudsters to target international students who are looking for a place to stay while studying abroad. Here are some common types of accommodation scams:

  1. Fake housing: Scammers advertise a place that is not for rent or does not exist, or use stolen photos and information from real listings. They may ask for a deposit or a fee before showing the place or signing a contract, and then disappear with the money.
  2. Hijacked advertisement: Scammers use a real place that is for rent, but change the contact details and pose as the owner or the agent. They may ask for a payment or personal information before allowing them to view the place or meet the real owner or agent.
  3. Bait-and-switch: Scammers show a different place than the one advertised, or change the terms and conditions of the rental agreement after receiving a payment or a signature. They may claim that the original place is no longer available, or that some additional fees or requirements were not disclosed before.
  4. Missing amenities: Scammers list amenities that do not exist or are not functional in the place, such as internet, heating, or appliances. They may charge extra for these amenities, or refuse to fix them after the tenant moves in.

Tips to Prevent Falling Victim to accommodation scams

Accommodation scams are a type of fraud where scammers trick people into paying for fake or non-existent properties, often using online platforms or fake websites. To avoid falling victim to accommodation scams, here are some tips you can follow:

  • Verify the property and the owner: Do some research on the property you are interested in, such as checking its location, features, reviews, and availability. You can also use tools like Google Maps or Street View to see if the property matches the photos and description. If possible, contact the owner directly and ask for proof of ownership, such as a title deed or a utility bill. Avoid engaging with intermediaries or third parties who assert that they are acting on behalf of the property owner.
  • Use secure payment methods: Credit cards or trusted online payment platforms offer better protection against scams. Avoid wire transfers, money orders, or cash payments as they are difficult to trace and retrieve if scammed. Keep records of all payment transactions, including receipts and confirmation emails.
  • Beware of unrealistic offers. If the price, location, or amenities of the property seem too good to be true, they probably are. Scammers often use low prices or attractive features to attract potential victims. Compare the property with similar ones in the area and check the market rates. Be wary of any pressure tactics or urgency to make a booking or a payment.
  • Check the legitimacy of the website. Fake or cloned websites are often used by scammers to impersonate legitimate property owners or agents. Look for signs of authenticity, such as a secure connection (HTTPS), a clear privacy policy, a contact page, and a domain name that matches the company name. You can also use tools like Whois or DomainTools to check the registration details and history of the website.
  • Report any suspicious activity. If you encounter or suspect a scam, report it to the relevant authorities, such as the police, the online platform, or the consumer protection agency. You can also warn others by sharing your experience on social media or review sites. This can help prevent others from falling victim to the same scam.

3. How to Spot the Scams

There are many types of scams on the internet, and they can be hard to spot if you are not careful. Scams can trick you into giving away your personal or financial information, paying for fake products or services, or downloading malware that can harm your device or data. Here are some general tips on how to spot scams and protect yourself from them:

  • Stay skeptical: Question offers that seem too good to be true and verify information before taking any action.
  • Be cautious: Avoid clicking on unknown links, sharing personal information, or paying upfront fees without certainty.
  • Stay alert:  Watch for red flags like poor grammar, urgent requests, or unsolicited messages, and verify legitimacy before proceeding.
  • Take proactive steps: Report suspicious activity to authorities, banks, or police, and act swiftly if you suspect a scam.
  • Stay smart: Scammers evolve, so be careful both online and offline to protect yourself from new tactics.

Remember, scammers are always looking for new ways to trick people, so you need to be hawk-eyed and cautious when dealing with strangers online or offline. Stay safe and smart!

4. What to Do If You Fall Victim to a Scam

If you have fallen victim to an international school admission scam, here are some additional steps you can take:

  • Contact the school you applied to or intended to apply to

 You should verify if the admission letter, visa, or scholarship you received is genuine or not. You should also inform the school about the scam and provide any evidence or details you have. The school may be able to assist you or direct you to the appropriate authorities or resources.

  • Contact the relevant authorities in the school’s country

 Depending on the country where the international school is located, you may need to contact local law enforcement or other authorities to report the scam.

  • Contact your home country’s embassy or consulate

 If you are an international student studying abroad, contact your home country’s embassy or consulate for assistance. They may be able to provide guidance, support, or resources to help you recover from the scam.

  • Review your visa or immigration status

If you have already obtained a visa or immigration status based on the fraudulent admission offer, review your options and seek advice from the relevant authorities or an immigration lawyer to understand your rights and responsibilities.

  • Seek legal advice or assistance

You should consult a lawyer or a legal aid organization that specializes in immigration or education matters. They may be able to help you recover your money, protect your rights, or pursue legal action against the scammers. They may also help you with your immigration status or application, especially if you are facing deportation or other consequences due to the scam.

5. Tips on how to protect yourself from these scams

To protect yourself from international school admission scams, here are some tips:

  • Do research

Before you apply to any school or program, make sure you do your research and verify its legitimacy. You can check the school’s website, accreditation, ranking, reviews, and contact details. You can also contact the school directly or through a trusted education agent to ask questions and confirm the admission requirements and process. You can also consult the education authority or accreditation body in the country you applied to for more information and guidance.

  • Be careful with your personal and financial information

 Never give out your personal or financial information to anyone who contacts you by phone, email, or social media claiming to be from the school, the government, or any other organization. Always go directly to the organization’s website yourself to confirm the email’s legitimacy and contact details. Do not make any payments or transfers without confirming the legitimacy of the claim.

  • Beware of offers that sound too good to be true

Scammers may attract you with offers that seem very attractive, such as guaranteed admission, scholarships, visas, or discounts. They may also pressure you to act quickly or threaten you with consequences if you don’t. These are signs of a scam. Be cautious of any offer that sounds too good to be true, and always compare it with other sources and options. If you have any doubts, seek advice from your international student advisor or a trusted person.

  • Report any suspicious activity

 If you encounter or fall victim to any scam, you should report it as soon as possible. You can contact your international student advisor, your local police, your national consumer protection agency, or your national cybercrime agency. You can also report the scam to the platform or service that the scammers used to contact you, such as your email provider, phone company, or social media network. Reporting the scam can help the authorities track down the scammers and prevent them from harming others.

  • Stay informed and up to date

Stay informed about common international school admission scams, and stay up to date on any alerts or warnings issued by government authorities, educational organizations, or reputable sources.


International school admission scam is a serious problem that affects many students who want to pursue their education abroad. Scammers use various tactics to mislead students, such as impersonating government officials, offering fake or substandard admission letters, visas, or scholarships, or demanding money for non-existent fees or fines. These scams can cause financial, emotional, and legal harm to the victims, and damage their trust and confidence in studying abroad. Therefore, it is important for students to be aware of the common signs of scams, protect their personal and financial information, and report any suspicious activity to the authorities. By being careful and informed, students can avoid falling into scams and enjoy the benefits of studying abroad.

Varsha & Adi

Hi, we are Varsha and Adi, and we’re on a mission to help parents make the right choice for their kids’ education. Picking a school is like a 10-year commitment, and we realized parents needed clear, no-nonsense info. That’s why we created Candid Schools, where you can get the real deal on schools without the fancy jargon. Our goal is simple: to give parents the info they need to make the best choice for their little ones.

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