Avoid Scams and Stay Safe Online

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!

  • InterExchange only corresponds using email addresses from the domain interexchange.org.
  • International Cooperators that partner with InterExchange are thoroughly and rigorously vetted and are submitted to the U.S. Department of State on our Foreign Entity Report. We do not work with sub-agents.
  • InterExchange only accepts and processes applications through our Online Application System https://app.interexchange.org/

Here are the typical signs of an internet scammer.

Quick Tips

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

1. Poor Spelling and Formatting

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

2. Demanding and Urgent Emails

If you hesitate or respond slowly, communications and emails from scammers become pushy, demanding, and insisting that their request is urgent. This is a red flag!

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.

Requests for Payment or Sensitive Information

InterExchange does not use money transfer companies such as Western Union or MoneyGram for business transactions.

  • All payments to InterExchange are made on our Make a Payment page.
  • Always verify the receiver’s identity if you need to send money.
  • 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 receive an unexpected 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.

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.

Best Practices and Tips

The following is a list of best practices and tips to consider when engaging with new or suspicious entities:

  • Review the U.S. Department of State’s website, or contact the Office of Designation directly to request contact information for designated Summer Work Travel sponsors.
  • Beware of illigitimate websites. Make sure the links lead directly to real sites, such as j1visa.state.gov, and not to sites with links that include additional or suspicious words, such as us.j1visa.gov. You can make sure that the site you are on is legitimate by ensuring that U.S. Department of State’s website links to it.
  • Scrutinize the domain for extra letters or numbers, and be on the lookout for characters that are easily mistaken for others. For example, lowercase Ls may be changed to capital Is, or the legitimate e-mail address j1visa.state.gov may be spoofed as j1visa @hk.state.gov.
  • Call the local chamber of commerce associated with the business address or call the local government business register to confirm that a company is legitimate.
  • Check searchable online databases to see how long the company has had an online presence. A website that is only a few weeks or a few months old may not be as reliable as one that has been in business for several years.
  • Search online for reviews. Companies with a professional online presence often have online reviews or a listing on Facebook or other social media sites where you can see feedback from clients.
  • Browse the company's website for discrepancies and indicators of professionalism. If a website says one thing in one place, and then contradicts itself in another place, or if a website is unprofessional (e.g., uses stolen images or has numerous spelling or grammatical errors), that's a red flag that the business may be a scam.
  • Most legitimate companies will usually provide an address, a working phone number, and an "About Us" page with some company background.

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.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation