Unfortunately, this desirability, coupled with the fact that students are often enamored by their host city and looking for adventure, often leads them to be exploited. This exploitation often comes at the hands of the intelligence agencies of the student’s host city in an attempt to turn the student into a spy against his own home country.
With this information in mind, the FBI warns students that some foreign agencies may try to turn them against their country when studying abroad. In an effort to keep U.S. students from turning spy against America, the FBI has started an educational campaign to make American college students aware of the possibility that they could be targeted by foreign intelligence agencies.
A prime example, which is also being dramatized by the FBI, is the Shriver case. In 2003, Glenn Duffie Shriver was a college junior majoring in International Relations. With such a major, it is no surprise that he chose a study abroad program.
The one he chose was located in Shanghai, China. However, the following year, while still living in PRC, Shriver became a target of the Chinese government.
A Chinese Government Courtship
He was pursued by the Chinese government under the guise of writing political papers. At the time of the Chinese courtship, Shriver claimed he did not know that the individuals were agents of the Chinese government. However, when then these agents began to urge Shiver to seek employment with the U.S. government, he knew something was up.
Unfortunately for Shiver, he did not end the relationship with the agents. Instead, he accepted more than $70,000 from them for applying to government jobs. The Chinese wanted Shiver find a job that would grant him access to classified information that could be then funneled back to the PRC, for which Shriver would be compensated. This plot was discovered in 2010. Shiver was arrested and later sentenced.
Stories like the Shriver case are not uncommon. More than a quarter-million students participate in a study abroad program annually. The FBI is not urging students to stay away from these programs, but rather, be prepared, pay attention to who they come in contact with and what those individuals want.
According to the FBI:
“We’d like American students traveling overseas to view this video before leaving the U.S. so they’re able to recognize when they’re being targeted and/or recruited.”
The video is titled Game of Pawns: The Glenn Duffie Shriver Story and dramatizes the Shriver case and points out things to look for if a student believes he/she is being targeted. The video can be viewed in its entirety on the FBI website or in the video below.
Telltale Signs a Student Is Being Targeted
- A friendship quickly evolves from a job or internship. This job is probably tailor-made for foreign exchange students.
- The friend made in the host country may start asking for information or favors in return for cash. These requests often do not occur immediately into the friendship and initially the favors or information seem benign.
- This same friend may push the student to apply for government jobs. Especially those jobs where the career path deals with classified information.
Some of the best ways to keep from being targeted when studying abroad or the same as traveling for vacation.
- Do not post every detail of your life on social media. Just like crooks and con-men, foreign agents use sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as primary research tools.
- If a job offer is too good to be true, it probably is! If a job or friendship seems to be tailor-made for you, research it heavily. Know everything you can about it before accepting.
- Obviously, avoid friendships with criminals and governmental employees.
A study abroad program is a fantastic way to enrich your college experience. Just beware that they are some foreign agencies ready to exploit that enrichment to use you against your own country.