Warning: New Scam Targeting Foreign Nationals
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) recently reported on a new telephone scam targeting foreign nationals. This is a new effort by unscrupulous individuals attempting to defraud foreign nationals via telephone calls in which they claim to represent the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). MurthyDotCom readers are urged to remain vigilant. Many forms of trickery are used to take advantage of unwary foreign nationals.
USCIS Imposter Officers Demand Money through Western Union
According to AILA, individuals claiming to be USCIS officers have contacted some foreign nationals by telephone. The imposter may even have some basic information about the foreign national, leading the target to believe the call is genuine. For example, the caller may have the name and address of the foreign national. The caller will then ask the intended victim to clear up supposed inconsistencies found in the USCIS database related to the victim's immigration records (for example, I-94 number and "A" number discrepancies). The scammer ultimately purports to levy a fine against the foreign national because of the discrepancies in the records, and instructs the foreign national to wire funds through Western Union to cover the fictitious fine.
Immigrants Seen as Easy Prey by Scammers
Sadly, reports have been made before, describing other deceitful attempts to part foreign nationals from their money. Just a few months ago, a similar scam was reported to MurthyDotCom readers, which involved fake USCIS officials bullying foreign nationals over the phone into signing up for a fictitious USCIS training course. The sign-up forms were used as a pretext to obtain the victim's bank records and credit card information.
It is likely such individuals will continually represent themselves as government officials in an effort to dupe foreign nationals into handing over money and/or personal information. These swindlers operate by creating either a false sense of trust or by frightening foreign nationals with threats of even harsher penalties if they fail to cooperate.
Warning Signs to Recognize a Scam
- The first warning sign in this scam is the direct, unsolicited telephone contact. The USCIS does not typically contact individuals by telephone.
- While there are situations in which the government can issue immigration-related fines, these typically relate to criminal matters or violations by employers. Moreover, there are detailed procedures, including written notification, associated with the assessment of any financial penalties.
- The USCIS does not accept payments made through Western Union. Immigration-related payments are most commonly made by check, payable to the specific government department or agency. Some genuine immigration-related fees can be remitted online through official web portals. However, government eMail and web addresses always end in .gov.
As always, we at the Murthy Law Firm encourage our readers to be vigilant in protecting themselves against such scams, and to share this information with others. If someone calls claiming to be a USCIS officer, or other immigration official, requesting payment or sensitive information, ask for the request to be sent in writing. We will continue to update MurthyDotCom readers on the many novel ways criminals may be trying to take advantage of foreign nationals.
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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.