Immigrants working to keep their paperwork with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are in the crosshairs of thieves looking to make a quick buck as scammers are targeting the foreign-born population for bogus application fees and sensitive personal information. In response, USCIS is reminding immigrants that the agency only solicits payments from applicants through letters written on official USCIS stationary and sent through the U.S. Postal Service.
The scam, which targets immigrants all around the country, consists of criminals who impersonate government officials through phone calls or e-mail. Scammers tell the target they’ve come across a problem with an application, or that they need additional information in order to continue the immigration process. “They will then ask for personal and sensitive details, and demand payment to fix any problems,” according to the USCIS release warning of the scam.
Scams that target immigrants are nothing new. Unscrupulous attorneys, for instance, have a history of tricking undocumented immigrants into paying them obscene amounts of money for nothing of any value. In other instances, self-declared “notarios” too often separate undocumented immigrants from their money, and even sometimes wind up getting their duped clients deported.
In its Avoiding Scams page, USCIS advises immigrants to exercise self-empowerment with its online educational resources. These include:
- Top things to know before and after filing an application or petition;
- Common immigration services scams;
- State information on where you can report an immigration services scam;
- Advice on how to find authorized legal help;
- Information on how to become an authorized immigration service provider;
- Resource Center that can be printed and shared; and
- Help and other general tools online.
USCIS also lists other resources that could be helpful, including:
- USCIS customer service at 800-375-5283 (TDD for the deaf and hard of hearing: 800-767-1833);
- The Ask Emma virtual assistant for answers to questions and help in navigating the USCIS site
- Attending a USCIS outreach event; or
- Scheduling an appointment online to visit a local USCIS office.
For those who receive a scam email or phone call, USCIS asks immigrants to report it to the Federal Trade Commission at http://1.usa.gov/1suOHSS. For those who receive suspicious emails, USCIS asks recipients to the correspondence to the USCIS Webmaster at firstname.lastname@example.org. USCIS reviews these emails and share them with law enforcement agencies as appropriate.