Please note: The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on the following lists. Inclusion on this list is in no way an endorsement by the Department or the U.S. government. Names are listed alphabetically, and the order in which they appear has no other significance. The information on the list is provided directly by the local service providers; the Department is not in a position to vouch for such information.
American Citizen Services is contacted daily regarding financial scams originating from overseas. While such schemes have long existed, the advent of the internet has greatly increased their prevalence. Individual Americans have lost considerable money on these scams, ranging from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have provided a description of some common scams below.
Tea House Scam
A young Chinese “English student,” often female, offers to show you around town and then invites you to join her for tea at a nearby restaurant. When the bill comes, she leaves and the restaurant owners, usually very large men, force you to pay an exorbitant bill before you are allowed to leave the premises.
Art House Scam
A young Chinese “art student” will approach you (often at large tourist sites) and will ask if you like art done by local students. The student will invite you to view the artwork at an art studio or gallery and will pour tea and provide snacks while introducing their art to you. The art student will then pressure you to buy their artwork and will demand some sort of compensation for their hospitality before you leave.
Internet Dating and Romance Scam
A person you meet online claims to live outside of the U.S. and professes friendship, romantic interest, and/or marriage intentions over the Internet. Typically a connection is made, and the correspondent asks you to send money or credit card information for living expenses, travel expenses, or “visa costs.” Sometimes, the correspondent notifies the U.S. citizen that a close family member, like their mother or a child, is in desperate need of surgery and begins to request monetary assistance. Alternatively, the scam artist will suddenly disappear for a few days and resurface only to ask for money to help them return home. Sometimes a third party will ask for money on behalf of the scam artist, who is allegedly incapacitated. The ill-doers also usually assert that they have asked the Embassy for help, only to be rebuffed.
Diversity Visa Scam
One widespread Diversity Visa (DV) scam e-mail instructs recipients to send money via Western Union to a fictitious person at the U.S. Embassy in London or other world capitals. If you have received this e-mail, you have been targeted by con artists. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should money be sent to any address to participate in the DV Lottery. The Department of State’s Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) does not send e-mail notification to DV entrants informing them of their winning entries.
All types of advance-fee scams have one point in common – the targeted person is led to believe that he or she has a chance to attain something of very great personal value (financial reward, a romantic relationship, etc) in return for a small up-front monetary outlay. As a general rule, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. To learn more about common used scams or if you have been a victim of an international scam please visit the State Department’s website.
Coaching Job Scam
This scam includes requests for invitation letters and/or labor certifications for golf, tennis, football coaches or players and other proposed employment in China. The job offers often include very high wages and many benefits. Anyone considering accepting a job offer in China should NOT pay for their employment invitation documents, licensing fees, labor certifications, or any other up-front charges. The cost of obtaining and processing any needed documents are the responsibility of the Chinese employer and no legitimate company would ask the prospective employee to pay for them. In cases where Americans have sent money in response to such offers, they never hear from the “employer” again and are unable to get their money returned.
Teaching Job Scam
After applying for an international teaching job in China from the United States, a representative from an international bilingual school offers you a teaching job with good conditions, salary, housing, etc. When you arrive at the school, you find out that there is no job waiting for you. The representative offers to find you another job, but in the meantime you will have to pay for your own accommodation and living expenses. In some cases, you are actually offered a job, but either your salary is much lower than expected or accommodation and living expenses are not provided, in violation of the contract you signed. Most importantly, when your contact takes care of your Chinese visa, you often receive a tourist visa, rather than a working visa. Even though you are not aware of visa regulations, this is a violation of Chinese law which can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines and deportation.
Wire Transfers – You have been doing business with a Chinese company for some time and receive an email asking you to send the next wire transfer to a new account number. After wiring the money you are asked to resend the payment because it never arrived. After rewiring the payment you are again notified that the payment did not arrive and that you should try sending it to another account number. At which time you become extremely suspicious and discover the email address is slightly different from the company’s real e-mail address and/or the person who has been contacting you left the company a month before.
Passport/Bank Account Used for Fraud – You received a call on your mobile phone from someone claiming to be the police from the “Economic Crimes Bureau” in Beijing. You are told your bank account is involved with money laundering and that you are now being investigated. You are told that you may verify the incoming call by checking online or in a phone book for the number of the “Economic Crimes Bureau”. The caller is patient and tells you that he will hold the line while you check online or call 114 to verify the number. You check with different resources and confirm the phone number of the incoming call belongs to the police in Beijing. You then follow the caller’s instructions and provide him with detailed information about your bank accounts. You transfer the money to the safe account as instructed by the caller. You later find the money that you transferred is gone. How this Scam Works: To attract clients, telecom operators enable clients to set the incoming number they want to be displayed on the phone of someone they call. Bottom line, you cannot always trust that a phone call is truly coming from the number appearing on your phone. If you are concerned about your bank accounts, it’s best to contact your bank or the local authorities directly.
Please Hold the Line for the Police – You receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from your bank or the police station and you are told that someone assumed your identity and used your credit card to commit credit card fraud, which is now under investigation by the Public Security Bureau (PSB). You are informed that the PSB requires your bank account information to complete their investigation. After providing your personally identifiable information over the phone that included your savings account information, your account is liquidated. You later find out that the person who called you was not from your bank or the police station. If you receive a call from the police asking for personal information you should ask them to wait, and contact your nearest police station to inquire into the situation in person.