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Home About Us What We Investigate Counterintelligence The Key to U.S. Student Safety Overseas

The Key to U.S. Student Safety Overseas

The Key to U.S. Student Safety Overseas
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To ensure that you have a positive study abroad experience, the US government seeks to generate awareness about risks that you could face overseas – including those from foreign intelligence services.

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  • The US government supports US students’ travel abroad, which provides an opportunity to learn about foreign countries, customs, and cultures and acquire specialized linguistic, technical, and leadership skills
  • The US government also supports US students’ participation in employment opportunities while abroad to gain valuable work and resume building experiences
  • The US government proactively hires US students who have acquired foreign language and country expertise while studying overseas
  • The US government seeks to protect US students overseas from risks posed by foreign intelligence services to ensure their safety and future career prospects

Be Aware

You are a potential target of interest for foreign intelligence services.

  • Foreign intelligence services seek to identify US students who can help them gain access to information or persons of interest – either immediately or in the future
  • Foreign intelligence services develop initial relationships with US students overseas under seemingly innocuous pretexts such as job or internship opportunities, paid paper-writing engagements, language exchanges, and cultural immersion programs
  • As these relationships develop, foreign intelligence services ask the US students to perform tasks and provide information (which is not necessarily sensitive or classified) in exchange for payment or other rewards, slowly increasing their demands over time
  • Without proper awareness about this threat, US students overseas have inadvertently become involved in espionage activities and have been prosecuted for these activities

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Protect Yourself Abroad

You can protect yourself from foreign intelligence service targeting.

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  • Be skeptical of “money for nothing” offers and opportunities that seem “too good to be true” while abroad
  • Be cautious of foreigners who show undue interest in your personal or family background and your future career plans
  • Be cautious of foreigners who offer “free favors,” particularly those involving government processes such as issuing visas and residence permits
  • Minimize personal information that you reveal about yourself, particularly online through social media
  • Minimize your contact with foreigners who have questionable government or criminal affiliations
  • Properly report money or compensation you receive while abroad on your taxes and other financial disclosures to ensure compliance with US law
  • Report suspicious activity to your local US embassy or consulate’s Regional Security Officer while abroad
  • Report suspicious activity to your local FBI field office after returning to the United States

Safeguard Your (and America’s) Future

Protecting yourself from foreign intelligence service targeting abroad safeguards your and America’s future back at home.

  • Safeguard your future career prospects by avoiding inadvertently participating in intelligence or criminal activities. (Remember that many employers, including the US government, require applicants to report their overseas contacts and previous employment positions when applying for jobs!)
  • Safeguard America’s future by preventing foreign intelligence services from acquiring the tools they need to damage America and its citizens
  • Safeguard your friends overseas by making sure that they are aware of this targeting threat to ensure they avoid becoming unwitting victims

When you return to the U.S., report any suspicious activity to your local FBI office. You can also contact your local U.S. Embassy or consulate while abroad.