Scammers have all sorts of ways of trying to trick and steal from people. Unfortunately, the people who have just come to the U.S., who are not familiar with American government systems and who may not even have a strong grasp of the English language can be prime targets for scammers. Given how devastating immigrations scams can be – as well as how important immigration matters and cases can be to noncitizens, in this blog series, we will take a closer look at the most common types of immigration scams that are perpetrated in the U.S.
If you have an immigration issue that needs to be resolved and want to ensure that you don’t end up losing money (or possibly more) to immigration scams, don’t hesitate to contact the trusted and experienced Los Angeles immigration attorneys at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C.
A Look at the Top Immigration Scams in the U.S.
1. Telephone Immigration Scams
One of the most common types of immigration scams is the telephone scam. This usually involves:
- Someone calling you, pretending to be an agent with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) or some other type of government official.
- A request for your sensitive personal information, like your social security number, your banking formation, your Passport number, your A-number, etc.
- A request for you to make a payment over the phone to fix some “problem” with your immigration case and/or to facilitate the processing of your case.
With these immigrations scams, you should know that the USCIS will NEVER call you to ask you to make some type of payment over the phone. So, if you do end up being the target of a phone scam:
- Say “no” or “no thank you.”
- Never give out any of your personal information to the caller.
- Hang up the phone.
2. “Notario Publico” Immigration Scams
These immigration scams are typically aimed at people from Latin America, where the notario public (i.e., the public notary) is also generally an accredited attorney who can offer a lot of legal help to people. In the U.S., however, the public notaries are NOT licensed attorneys nor are they legally authorized to help you with your immigration case; only a licensed immigration attorney – like the ones at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C. – are in the U.S.
Therefore, if you are looking for help with some immigration issues and a local public notary is telling you that he can assist you with these matters, do NOT be tricked by this type of immigration scam. Instead, make sure you consult a licensed attorney who handles immigration matters like yours.
3. Local Business Immigration Scams
With these types of immigration scams, local businesses may promise or guarantee that they can help people get visas, green cards or other important immigration documents. However, when these businesses are promising to offer this type of help while doing any of the following, they are likely running immigration scams to just take your money without getting you the results you need and expect:
- Charging you for immigration forms and information that is available for free on the USCIS website
- Charging you fees that are far more expensive than the USCIS fees for processing applications (usually with the false promise of getting your case resolved faster)
Don’t fall into these types of immigration scams. Instead, if you are being promised services and guarantees from some business and they seem too good to be true, consider doing some due diligence by, for instance, checking the business out with the Better Business Bureau (to see if this is a known scamming operation).
4. Dot-Com Immigration Scams
Some of the more modern and complicated immigration scams involve online services or businesses that may even go so far as to mimic the logos, language, look and feel of the USCIS website and/or other government websites. With these scams, it can be easy to think you are dealing with a government entity when you are, in fact, not.
To avoid submitting your sensitive personal information to a potential online scammer, make sure that you always check the ending of the URL for the website (i.e., the end of the website’s address):
- A .gov ending will indicate that you are dealing with a legitimate government entity.
- A .com ending (or any other ending that is not “.gov”) will likely indicate that you are likely dealing with some type of immigration scam operation.
5. Visa Lottery Immigration Scams
Every year, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) conducts a visa lottery that involves randomly selecting 50,000 people from a pool of applicants and awarding these people visas. With this lottery, however, people may not be aware of the facts that:
- They have to meet some very specific eligibility requirements in order to qualify for a visa from the DOS.
- One of these requirements is that the people are from a country that has low rates of immigration to the U.S.
Playing on people’s desires, immigration scams will generally come in the form of letters or emails that do either of the following:
- Tell people that they’ve already won a visa through the lottery
- Tell people that, for some fee, this company can make it far easier for them to get into the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.
Such promises are, however, lies that are only trying to get people’s sensitive personal information and/or money. What people should know is that:
- The DOS will never email you.
- Getting into the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program involves an official government application and process.
- People can easily check the DOS website to verify if they’re in the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program and/or if they have actually been awarded a visa.
More Important Info about Immigration Scams and How to Avoid Them…
- Avoid any immigration services that reference INS – This agency has not existed since 2003, so references to it are giant red flags of immigration scams.
- Any valid and official correspondence regarding your immigration case will come directly from USCIS.
- If you end up getting ensnared in any immigrations scams, be sure to report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- You will have the best chances of avoiding being deceived by immigration scams by entrusting your immigration needs to a qualified immigration lawyer, like the attorneys at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C.
Los Angeles, California Immigration Lawyers at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C.
To learn more about our citizenship, immigration and deportation defense services contact our Los Angeles immigration attorneys today by calling (626) 684-3712 or (866) 227-5527 or by emailing us using the form at the upper right-hand side of the screen.
From our office in Pasadena, we serve clients throughout the Los Angeles area, across the state of California and from around the world.
We offer free, confidential initial consultations to provide potential clients with expert advice regarding their immigration law needs. Additionally, we are able to provide immigration legal services in various languages, including in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Bahasa Indonesian, Tagalog and Fukienese