Safety, Scams, & Identity Protection
Boston and Cambridge are relatively safe as long as you use common sense. It is best for you to use caution when dealing with both physical safety and other safety issues such as identity theft. We encourage you to visit the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) should you have any questions regarding safety issues.
If you are ever involved in an emergency situation (such as a car accident, fire, robbery, or assault) you should contact the police in the city or town by calling 911. You can also call the HUPD at (617) 495-1212 if the situation takes place on-campus. If you need the assistance of a mental health professional to discuss problems connected with your emergency situation, call University Health Services/Mental Health or the HUPD for assistance in getting help.
Harvard Resources for Your Safety
Below are services offered by the HUPD.
- Playing It Safe Guidebook
- Harvard Shuttle Bus and the Medical Area Shuttle
- Evening Van Service One can arrange transportation between University locations and the nearest Shuttle Bus stop between 7 pm and 2:45 am. This service should be used only if one has no other safe alternative because there is only one car to serve the entire University community. It may be necessary to wait for the van to arrive, since service is provided in order of calls received, and advance appointments cannot be made. This service is not designed to provide individuals with transportation on a regular basis; any person who requires regular assistance should seek alternative arrangements.
- Harvard University Campus Escort Program provides walking escorts for students, faculty and staff seven nights a week during the academic year and covers the Yard, River, and Quad areas.
Please protect your personal information by not responding to unsolicited phone calls and emails. We have heard of a number of scams (a dishonest way of soliciting money by deceiving people) targeting non-immigrants lately, including calls from individuals claiming to be immigration and tax officials requesting personal information such as social security numbers and credit card information. Government officials do not call or email requesting such personal information.
Tax season in particular is a time of year when scammers attempt to extort money from people or steal identities by pretending to be IRS officials. Students and scholars who have received scam phone calls, have reported that their caller ID said the IRS or an immigration office (e.g. SEVP, USCIS) were calling. Scam phone calls have also been received where the caller ID stated that the Massachusetts State Police, Cambridge Police, or other local police were calling. If you do not know who is on the line, do not simply assume it is someone from the office identified on your caller ID. Scammers are able to “spoof” these numbers so it appears the call is coming from a government office.
Government officials would never ask you for money or to meet them with gift cards. The IRS would never call individuals regarding their taxes and USCIS or SEVP would never call you to threaten you with arrest or deportation. If you receive any calls like those described above, simply hang up! You should also never email your social security number or give it to someone you do not know over the phone. Please refer to the links below for resources and more information:
- Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts
- Identity Protection: Prevention, Detection and Victim Assistance
- For more information about how to avoid identity theft please review the HUPD website.
Individuals sometimes fall prey to scams and fraud schemes. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) provides a very useful web resource that reviews some of the most common scams and how to avoid them. Please note that U.S. government agencies, and most private entities, will never request sensitive personal information such as a Social Security Number.
Identity Theft and Protection
Protecting your identity from theft is extremely important. Below are some resources of tips and prevention of identity theft.
Many communities have free or low cost legal “clinics” that can assist with non-criminal disputes, such as tenant landlord disputes and other similar issues. Below are two such organizations.