Avoid Scams and Stay Safe Online

By Michael Gates


The internet has made international travel easier, but it has also created online scams aimed at exchange program participants. Scammers may pretend to be hosts, staff members, federal agencies, or other participants. They target users through Facebook, online forums, websites, phone calls, WhatsApp, and more.

We value your online safety, as well as your time and money, and we don't want to see you waste either on a scam!

Woman using computer

By sticking to our tips, you can avoid scammers online. Image courtesy of Pexels.

Here are the typical signs of an internet scammer.

Unofficial Email Address

All emails from InterExchange staff will end in @interexchange.org or @lc.interexchange.org.

  • For example, the email address interexchange@usa.com is NOT real. Do not answer any emails from this address or any others that do not end in our official domain.
  • Anyone claiming to be InterExchange from a free email service provider, such as @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, or @usa.com, is a scammer.
Fake Email

This email address is not a sponsor email address, and the email is a scam. Image courtesy of InterExchange.

Requests for Payment via a Third Party

InterExchange does not use money transfer companies such as Western Union, MoneyGram, or other online payment portals for business transactions.

fraudulent invoice

Here is an example of a fraudulent invoice. The scammer uses Moneygram and has an address in Chicago, while InterExchange is headquartered in New York. Image courtesy of InterExchange.

Poor Spelling and Formatting

Scammers may send materials that are poorly written, contain spelling or grammatical errors, and utilize unprofessional and messy formatting.

Communications Over Email or Chat Only

Scammers often refuse to speak with you on the phone or over a video call, preferring to communicate by email or chat. If someone refuses to let you hear their voice, it is probably a scam. InterExchange is always happy to talk to you over the phone.

WhatsApp scam

Here is an example of a scam over WhatsApp. The working hours and accommodation are not what the au pair program offers, and the email address is not real. Images courtesy of InterExchange.

Demanding and Urgent Emails

If you hesitate or respond slowly, emails from scammers become demanding and urgent. This is a red flag!

Phone Calls Asking For Money or Sensitive Information

If you receive a phone call from someone who claims you owe money or asks for your personal information, like your Social Security number or bank account information, this is a scam.

  • Don’t tell anyone your Social Security number.
  • Never send your documents, like a copy of your passport, to people you do not know.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will send a letter if there is a problem with your taxes. They will not call you - this is a scam.

If you're ever unsure of someone you're in touch with, please contact us. You can also review common fraud schemes on the FBI website to learn how to recognize and avoid scams.

Michael Gates

Originally from Colorado's Front Range, Michael studied and worked abroad in Austria, Germany, and France before settling in New York in 2007. When he isn't talking about his two beloved cats, Michael can be found at the gym, playing video games, or reading about geopolitics and history. He currently oversees au pair recruitment and placement for the Au Pair USA program.

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