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Cyber Kidnapping | January 05, 2024

In light of a recent “cyber kidnapping” in Utah involving a 17-year-old foreign exchange student from China, the University of Utah Department of Public Safety cautions all campus community members, especially international students, to be mindful of these types of scams. Read more from Public Safety. 


 The university, a police department, or the U.S. government will never call you directly and demand immediate payment over the phone.

International students and scholars at the University of Utah and other universities across the U.S. have frequently been targets of a variety of scams using phone, email, social media, and other means. The scammer will identify themselves as a police officer, government official, or university official and threaten dismissal from the university, deportation from the U.S., arrest, or dropped classes unless you immediately pay money to the government or university. Payment demanded by the scammer is usually made via money order, wire transfer, gift cards or other difficult to track payment methods.

The scammers will also often use your personal information to deceive you. Your personal information such as your name, address, and phone number can be found in the Campus Directory.

Directory information is considered to be public information unless you request that it be kept confidential. Directory Information includes:

  • Student's name, address, or telephone number
  • Student ID number
  • Class standing
  • Field of study
  • Participation in officially recognized activities or sports
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • Dates of attendance
  • Degrees and awards received
  • Most recent previous educational agency or institution attended
  • Email address
  • Enrollment status
  • Photograph

The information listed above is considered public information; however, the university does not release lists of students or name-and-address labels to businesses or agencies outside the university. Likewise, the university does not release information regarding applicants to outside agencies.

A form is available through the Registration Division (Restrict Directory Information (PDF)Remove Directory Information Restriction (PDF)), or may be completed online through Campus Information Services. To access the form, log into your CIS account, click on your "student profile" tile on your Student Homepage, and then click on the "Privacy Restrictions" link. Allow 24 hours once the form is processed by the Registration & Records Division for the directory to be updated.


  • Hang up immediately! The scammers are extremely aggressive and will try to keep you on the phone. Do not listen to their threats.
  • If you are unsure about whether or not the call was a scam, please contact the International Student and Scholar Services via phone at (801) 581-8876 or visit us in person during business hours.
  • Call the University Police at 801-585-COPS(2677) to report the fraud attempt.


  • Do not stay on the phone with the scammer.
  • Do not provide or verify any information to the caller.
  • Do not perform a wire transfer or purchase moneygrams, green dot cards, or any other cash payments to provide to the caller.

Example of a Phone Scam:


  • Spread the word to your friends! The more that people are aware of this scam, the less effective it is.
  • If what the caller is telling you sounds strange, inaccurate, or makes you feel uncomfortable, then something is not right and you should hang up.
  • Never give strangers your personal information, including website passwords or usernames.
  • Visit  for more information about immigration scams and how to avoid them and explanations about some of the most common scams.
  • Limit personal information that is available on personal and departmental websites.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.


Federal Trade Commision's 10 Ways to Avoid Scams

Federal Trade Commssion's How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams

Common Immigration Related Scams

Internal Revenue Service on Tax Scams / Consumer Alerts

Report a Phishing Attempt with University Information Technology (UIT)

Report Fraud with the Federal Trade Commision

File a Complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Regarding an Online Scam

Report Immigration Fraud to USCIS

Report Social Security Fraud


Last Updated: 1/23/24