The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is reporting a recently discovered scam aimed towards defrauding immigrants. The new effort by individuals attempting to extract money from unsuspecting foreign nationals claim to represent U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials.
Some of the most common ways of defrauding immigrants is fake USCIS officials asking for money through Western Union. Individuals will contact immigrants over the phone with some basic information about the immigrant, which makes it easier to fall prey to the scammer. Most of the time, the caller will ask the immigrant to verify their name and address and then ask them to clear up any inconsistencies found in the USCIS database relating to the immigrant’s records. The scammer will then proceed to ask for payment for correcting the mistakes and ask that the immigrant wire the funds over through Western Union to cover fines that in reality do not exist.
Unfortunately, immigrants are seen as easy prey to scammers because they do not question authority when someone from USCIS calls for additional information. Just months before, a similar scam was reported that involved fake USCIS officials bullying immigrants over the phone into signing up for a fake USCIS training course. The sign up forms were used to obtain credit card information and the victim’s bank records. The scammers create a false sense of trust by pretending to be authority figures and by threatening immigrants with harsher penalties for not cooperating. AILA warns immigrants to be careful of the following things to avoid being defrauded: (1) A direct phone call from USCIS is suspicious because USCIS does not typically contact individuals by the telephone. (2) While the government may issue immigration related fines, usually they relate to criminal matters or violations by employers. Additionally, the fines are issued in a detailed procedure which includes a written notification. (2) USCIS does not accept payment through Western Union. Immigration related payments of any kind are usually made by check payable to the specific agency or department-not a specific person.
Immigration activists have raised awareness on this issue over the past few months, which has gotten the attention of Congress, but scammers are also paying attention to ways which they can defraud individuals. If any questions arise regarding immigration related issues, it is best to contact a licensed immigration attorney.