The University of Iowa

Personal Safety

  • Keep your doors locked even when you are at home.
  • If someone knocks at your door or rings your doorbell, do not open the door until you have identified who is there. Never feel pressured to open your door to anyone you don't know.
  • Leave both an outside and an inside light on if you will be away from your room or apartment after dark.

The Department of Public Safety offers a number of services to help educate students, faculty, and staff as well as keep the community as safe as possible. These services include: code blue phones, educational programs, Nite Ride, special event staffing, and the Threat Assessment Team.

Transportation at Night
University of Iowa NITE RIDE Van

Iowa City is generally a safe area, but crime can happen here as it can anywhere else.  There are numerous taxi services available in Iowa City for anyone wanting transportation home if it is after dark or you otherwise feel uncomfortable walking home.

The University of Iowa also offers NITE RIDE, a free shuttle service staff by University of Iowa Security Officers that operates between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. 7 nights/week.  Currently the service is available only to women, and runs within specific boundaries.  A map as well as more information on this service can be found here.  The phone number to arrange a NITE RIDE pickup is 319-384-1111.

Protecting Valuables

  • Lock the doors to rooms, apartments, and cars.
  • At the library: Do not leave valuables unattended, even briefly. 
  • At bookstores: Some bookstores ask patrons not to take a backpack or other bag into the store. (The bookstore does this to reduce shoplifting.) These stores provide a place for you to leave your bag or backpack while you are shopping. Do not leave valuables in your backpack.
  • Bicycles: If you park a bicycle outside in Iowa City, be sure you secure it to a bicycle rack with a sturdy lock and chain. You can reduce the chance of losing your bicycle to theft by registering it with the police department.
  • Garments: Winter coats, hats, and scarves are sometimes stolen from coat racks in libraries or restaurants. If you own expensive winter clothing, you may wish to keep it in your sight in public places.


Every year ISSS learns of "scams" that target international students and scholars.  A "scam" means someone is being deceptive in some way, usually trying to cheat you out of your money or your personal information.  International students are common targets of scams because they are often unfamiliar with what is "normal," or may feel pressured into participating.  Only you can ultimately protect yourself from being taken advantage of, but ISSS has created a list of common situations that may help you begin to identify when someone is trying to take advantage of you.  Always report these things to the police department in your area.  If you are on campus when it happens, notify the UI Campus Police.  If you are at home or off-campus, notify the local policy department in the city where it happens (Iowa City or Coralville).

Always remember that scammers count on you to be easily intimidated, gullible, scared, and ignorant of how things "work" in the U.S. (although plenty of Americans fall victim to scammers as well).  The best thing you can do to arm yourself is to think critically about your interactions and what people are trying to tell you, don't let fear or sympathy prompt you to do something you would not otherwise do, and don't let yourself feel you have to be "nice" to someone or fear offending them by saying no.  Also trust that inner voice that often alerts you when something may be wrong.

Also remember that legitimate groups such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS, for taxes), the Department of Homeland Security (immigration), your bank, and the police department are never going to call or email you and ask/pressure you to provide information such as a Social Security Number or to send them money immediately.  When that sort of thing happens it should be an immediate "red flag" (warning sign) to you that something is not right.  In such cases, hang up, close the door, or walk away and alert International Student and Scholar Services if you have concerns about whether something was legitimate or a scam.

Phone Scams

You may get a phone call from someone who says they are with an authority such as the police, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or even immigration/Department of Homeland Security.  They may indicate you owe some kind of money, and if you do not pay immediately, they will send law enforcement to arrest you, and in some cases that you will be deported.  They may threaten or yell at you.  In some cases, they may even have basic information about you such as your name, address, even home country.  Some phone scams are so sophisticated that they have the technology to make it appear the call is coming from the local police department or other legitimate number, when it isn't, so you can't even completely trust caller ID.  The best course of action is to simply hang up.  Don't try to engage the person in conversation.  Report this to your local police department and also inform ISSS.

We particularly see such scams pop up seasonally, such as during and right after tax season (spring), or during times when immigration is in the news (such as executive orders regarding travel bans), and try to take extra advantage of the situation to help convince people it is real.

Often scammers may find information about you on the internet to make it appear they have access to "protected" personal details.  You can at least guard your local home address and/or phone number so that they do not appear on the UI student/staff directory.  You may log in to MyUI and go to the section for updating your address.  There is a dropdown item where you can choose to make your address, phone, or both private so that no one can get this information from searching the UI directory.

Scams Targeting Family at Home

A recent scam has been reported by international students at the University of Nebraska, as well as in other countries.

A complex new scam is targeting international students and their families.

According to the University Police Department, the scam involves international students being told they are implicated in crimes back home. The scammers coerce victims into a series of actions and threaten to harm family members in their home country.

Simultaneously, family members overseas are informed by the scammers that their relative has been kidnapped and will only be released if a large sum of money is paid. In each case, the scammers communicate with the victims in their native language and falsely claim to be government officials from the student’s home country.

Similar version of this scam have been reported worldwide, including Canada and Australia. Students and family members should know that embassy or consulate officials will not advise of legal cases or seek to verify personal information over the phone.

University of Nebraska–Lincoln administrators are advising students and family members who believe they being or have been scammed to contact university police or a consulate immediately.

In-Person Scams

Occasionally some individuals will target people they believe are international, and may approach you with stories that they are selling magazines to go to college or win a trip, or some other moving personal story that they hope will motivate you to give them money.  Don't fall for it.  If anyone on or off campus approaches you asking for money, or personal information, don't provide it.  If you are interested in making charitable donations, there are many legitimate and reputable charitable organizations in the Iowa City area and ISSS staff can help identify those for you.

Email Scams

Students, staff, and faculty are often sent emails that try to make it appear is coming from the University of Iowa, such as from Information Technology Services (ITS).  The email may ask you to log in and reset your password or enter other personal information.

Or the emails may appear to come from a bank, a federal government office (such as the IRS or Department of Homeland Security), or even announce a package coming to you from DHL or another express mail carrier.  Always treat unexpected emails as suspect, and as with everything else if you are uncertain, stop by ISSS or Information Technology Services on the second floor of University Capitol Centre to ask them to help you assess whether something is "real" or not.

Another common email scam may come from someone who claims they have "secret" or embarrassing information about you, and that you'll have to pay them money so they will not release it to your family/friends/the public.

Employment Scams

In 2014 ISSS began hearing reports from the Pomerantz Career Center about scams relating to employment offers.  Apparently some scammers will search things like LinkedIn and other sites, and target international students by contacting them to say they have a job offer.  Often there may be an invitation to meet in person for lunch or coffee.  Or there may be a request for you to send them personal information to get the employment process started.  Again, never trust these.  In some cases they may be attempting to get personal information from you in order to gain financially.  In at least one case, the person contacting students was found to be listed on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry.

This is not the typical way that job offers are made in the U.S.  You should not respond when contacted, and definitely do not agree to meet the person.  If you are uncertain whether the offer may be real or not, contact ISSS or the Pomerantz Career Center.  For more information refer to “How to Spot Fraudulent Employers and Postings” on the Pomerantz Career Center website, in particular scrolling down to the section addressed especially to international students.

February 16, 2017 - The University of Iowa learned of a recent court case from January 2017 involving local scams conducted against international students in Iowa City where investment money was taken in promise of helping the students obtain the EB-5 green card.  The case, involving New Asian Food Corporation and defendants Jennifer Xie, Mindy Xie, and Bin Yun Sun, was concluded in early January 2017.  More information may be found on this Chinese news site or in this translated version.  This information has also been verified independently and court details are available on Iowa Courts Online.  ALWAYS be cautious if you are being offered unauthorized employment, or opportunities to give someone "investment" money in promise of getting you a green card.  Consult an ISSS advisor or an immigration attorney before you take any action.

Scams Related to Sales/Purchases

Refer to this page for specific information on how to avoid scams in prizes, door-to-door sales, telemarketing, Craigslist, and other methods were goods may be purchased.

Emergency Communications and Notifications

Hawk Alert

The Hawk Alert system is used to notify the campus community of threats to physical safety in emergency situations. Please keep your contact information on MyUI updated in order to receive Hawk Alert in a timely manner.

Siren Warning System

Along with the Hawk Alert system, the UI Siren Warning System is essential to providing clear and prompt information to the community in the event of an emergency such as severe weather or violence on campus.