Avoiding common immigration application scams

Following the Nov. 20, 2014, announcement of President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration reform, a new issue reared its head: undocumented immigrants being targeted by scams. As the Los Angeles Times reported, con artists have been soliciting illegal services, including unauthorized assistance filing immigration paperwork and advice concerning immigrant status, a form of fraud provided by what is widely known as “notario publico.” With this issue, concern about other common scams has resurfaced, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services warns the public to be wary when it comes to these regular outlets for scammers:

Telephone
Scammers may call people claiming to be employees of USCIS or other government agencies, asking for personal information such as your passport, alien registration or social security numbers. These con artists may claim to be calling in order to identify problems with immigration records or to collect payment to resolve issues with records. Note that the USCIS will never call you to request any form of payment over the phone. If you believe you’re being contacted by a fraudulent caller, say “No, thank you,” and hang up.

Local businesses
Some community businesses advertise services and make guarantees to USCIS benefits, such as visas, green cards and employment authorization documentation. These businesses tend to charge application and filing fees higher than USCIS. However, their guarantees are generally false.

Immigration and Naturalization Service
Some businesses, websites and callers claim to be from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This agency no longer exists, and was dismantled in 2003 when the Department of Justice took over. USCIS is now the component that handles all immigration benefits.

Those who believe they have been the target of a scam or fraudulent activity should report it to the Federal Trade Commission.