New Year’s Resolution: Avoid Immigration Scams!26 Dec 2014
The President’s November 20, 2014 announcement of various executive actions related to immigration has created excitement and hope for foreign nationals living in the United States. The uncertainty of the changes in rules and regulations, however, also makes foreign nationals prime targets for criminals who are using increasingly sophisticated scams to steal from immigrants. Fortunately, there are precautions that can be taken to avoid becoming a victim.
Change Creates Right Mix for Scams
Whenever there is an actual or potential change in immigration law or policy, it creates uncertainty. Immigration law is complex, and it can even be difficult for experts to assess the meaning and implication of various changes. Immigrants unaccustomed to U.S. laws, policies, and customs face additional challenges in deciphering immigration reports in the media, which may be incomplete, inaccurate, and/or conflicting. This environment sets the stage for criminals to target the hopes and fears of a vulnerable and sometimes desperate population.
Caller ID Spoofing Immigration Scam
The best way to avoid becoming the victim of immigration scam artists to know their tricks. One such technique that has come to light in recent years involves the use caller ID ‘spoofing,’ which uses technology to make a phone call appear to be originating from a government agency, such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The scammer may pretend to be a USCIS officer or other government official, claim that there is a need to resolve some supposed immigration problem, and leverage this to extract payment or personal information (e.g., a Social Security number).
It is important to note that the USCIS does not take payments over the phone. Any such requests are almost certainly coming from a criminal. More information on this scam is available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Immigration Scam: Be Cautious (16.Sep.2013).
False eMail and WebSite Scams
An important tipoff as to whether a communication or website is genuine is the use of the “dotcom” extension. Government eMails and websites all have “dotgov” addresses (e.g., email@example.com). Additionally, the government does not send eMails to individuals seeking basic information, such as name, social security number, or address. Skepticism and caution need to be applied when reviewing such eMail communications.
The same common sense rule applies to websites that claim affiliation with the USCIS. The USCIS WebSite is located at www.USCIS.gov. Forms are available free of charge on that website, and fee payments are made either by check or, where available, through official government channels.
USCIS WebSite Posts Updates on Scams
The USCIS WebSite frequently carries information on trends in immigration scams. For instance, the USCIS has noted that many scammers continue to identify themselves as being employees of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), an agency that has not existed for more than a decade.
MurthyDotCom is a Free, Reliable Source
Information is the best protection against immigration scams. MurthyDotCom provides the latest updates on changes in immigration law and policy, in addition to warning about new tactics employed by con artists. Staying informed, not just about scams, but of the actual changes in immigration law, will make you less vulnerable, and less likely to be taken in by a scam.
Criminals often use fear to trick victims out of their personal information or cash. And, as the old adage goes, “promises that appear too good to be true, probably are.” Remain cautious. Give yourself a gift during the holiday season and make a New Year’s resolution that is simple to keep: empower yourself with knowledge from reliable sources in order to protect yourself and your loved ones.
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