Immigrants: Beware of Scams

by Protima Daryanani

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) this week issued a notice warning immigrants to be aware of scams targeting foreign nationals over the phone and email:

Don’t be one of the victims! Scammers may call or email you, pretending to be a government official. They will say that there is a problem with an application or additional information is required to continue the immigration process. They will then ask for personal and sensitive details, and demand payment to fix any problems.

USCIS notes that their officials and representatives will never ask for payment over the phone or in an email. If they require payment for any reason, USCIS will mail a letter on official stationery specifically requesting payment. Those receiving scam emails or phone calls should report it to the Federal Trade Commission, and if they are unsure if it is a scam, the messages can be forwarded to the USCIS Webmaster. USCIS will review the emails received and share with law enforcement agencies as appropriate. For questions about immigration cases and any correspondence, it is always best to consult with immigration counsel or call USCIS customer service at 800-375-5283. Applicants are also permitted to schedule an InfoPass appointment to make inquiries about their case.

Immigration scams come in many varieties and the goal is always to take money or obtain personal identity information from often vulnerable people who are nervous or unsure about an immigration process or who do not understand all the intricacies of immigration regulations. Readers of our blog will recall my own experience being targeted by a scam call and my post about the numerous scams that target immigrants, including fake emails from “INS” (not USCIS, which is the current acronym), fake immigration websites, Notarios who misrepresent their legal abilities and education, fraudulent lawyers, those who prey on Diversity Visa (DV) lottery applicants, and callers who claim to be from Immigration & Customs Enforcement.

If any of our readers find themselves on the receiving end of one of these scam calls or emails, here are some tips on how to handle it:

  1. Get the person’s name or ID number.
  2. Have them state the exact company or agency from which they are calling or emailing (in an email you can always check the email address).
  3. Do not give them any information about you or a family member.
  4. Never discuss your immigration case or the details of your immigration case with a random caller.
  5. Never give out your Social Security number or date of birth to random callers.
  6. You can always get the caller’s number and call them back, after speaking with an immigration lawyer or advisor.
  7. Never give any payment or bank account details to anyone on the phone.  Immigration will never ask for this.
  8. If they are like my scammer, they will be very pushy and persistent.  Remember you can always hang up the phone. No one, even if they are calling legitimately, should be rude.
  9. Understand all the facts about your immigration case so you are able to recognize scams.
  10. Report the problem to immigration so they can keep track of trends.

To learn more about immigration scams, readers can also visit the Avoid Scams Initiative for more information on common scams and other important anti-fraud safety tips. Stay safe, everyone!