For many, an application for a visa, Green Card or U.S citizenship is the first step towards a new life in the U.S, financial prosperity or familial reunification. As a result, it can be a source of great uncertainty, anxiety and concern.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals are seeking to capitalize on this period of uncertainty by conducting a number of scams, targeting individuals in contact with U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of Homeland Security. In this article, we have highlighted the most common scams used by confidence tricksters to fleece honest, hardworking applicants of their hard-earned cash.

Common Scams

  • A Call from an Individual Purporting to be from USCIS, Requesting Sensitive Information, Making a Demand for Payment and Threatening Deportation in the event of Non-Compliance.  

Nature of Scam

The victim receives a telephone call from the scammer. The number displayed on the victim’s caller ID looks like a genuine Government telephone number, due to technological trickery on the scammers’ part.

During the telephone call, the scammer poses as a USCIS Officer/Government Official/Law Enforcement Officer and claims that he requires further information in order to process the victim’s visa application/Green Card application/U.S Citizenship application. He subsequently asks a series of questions, eliciting highly sensitive personal information, in order to commit identity fraud against the victim. He demands payment from the victim and threatens the victim with deportation, arrest, fines or imprisonment, in the event of non-compliance.

In some cases, scammers have had the audacity to use an online map to physically DIRECT victims to the nearest bank to transfer funds to the scammers’ account or a money exchange, to wire transfer the funds. In some cases, victims have been directed to the nearest store, to purchase a prepaid card, gift card, voucher or money order.

How to Respond

Sadly, scams of this nature prey on the precarious situation in which visa applicants find themselves, while their application is being processed. If you receive a call of this nature, end the call immediately and do not provide any personal information.

In any event, if you are EVER in doubt as to the identity of the person you are speaking to on the telephone, simply tell the person that you will call them back and end the call.

You can then find the correct number for the organization in question using a reliable source – either their official website or genuine correspondence you have received from them – and return the call. A genuine official will not mind you returning their call and, indeed, would wish you to do so, if you have any concerns over the authenticity of the call.

In any event, at the time of writing, the USCIS website states that they will NEVER request payment over the telephone or by email. If they require payment for any reason, they will forward a formal letter by mail, on an official letterhead.

If you have been a victim of this type of scam or require further information regarding this type of scam, visit the “Avoid Scams” section of the USCIS website.

  • A Call from “US Immigration”, Requesting Personal Information

Nature of Scam

A scammer telephones a victim, claiming to be from “US Immigration”. The victim’s caller ID reads “1-800-323-8603”, which is a telephone number associated with the Department of Homeland Security.

During the telephone call, the victim is asked a number of questions by the scammer, designed to elicit sensitive personal information (e.g. his Social Security Number, Passport Number etc.). The information is then subsequently used by the scammer to commit identity fraud.

Ironically, in some cases scammers trick victims into disclosing confidential private information, by claiming they require the information due to the victim having already been a victim of identity fraud.

How to Respond

The official advice from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General is not to answer calls from 1-800-323-8603, as the Department of Homeland Security never uses its hotline number to make outgoing calls. The number is used to receive calls from members of the public only.

If you inadvertently answer a call from the above number, end the call immediately and do not provide any personal information.

  • A Letter or Email Claiming You Have Won the Diversity Visa Lottery

Nature of Scam

Scammers send a fraudulent email or letter to the victim, posing as a U.S Government Official. They claim the victim has won the Diversity Visa Lottery (even if they have never entered!) and request sensitive personal information and/or payment, in order to process their application.

 

How to Respond

The Department of State, Office of Visa Services advises anyone who has received an email or letter purporting to be from a U.S Government Official, claiming they have won the Diversity Visa lottery, to simply ignore it.

DV Lottery applicants will NEVER receive an email from the U.S Government, advising them that they have been successful in the DV Lottery. The only way DV Lottery applicants can find out if they were successful in the DV Lottery is by checking their status online, through the DV Entrant Status Check.

Furthermore, it is important to note that DV Lottery fees are paid directly to the U.S. Embassy or consulate cashier at the time of your scheduled appointment. U.S Government officials will never seek advanced payment by check, money order, or wire transfer.

  • A Letter, Email or Telephone Call from a Firm, Offering to Increase your Chances of Winning the DV Lottery, for a Fee

Nature of Scam

The victim receives a letter, email, telephone call or other correspondence from a firm, offering to increase their chances of winning the DV Lottery, in return for payment.

How to Respond

Ignore any such correspondence. The DV Lottery is free to enter (so there is never any reason to pay a DV Lottery entry fee) and, in any event, names are drawn completely at random. There is no way to increase your chances of being selected.

  • Scam Websites, Purporting to be Affiliated with USCIS, Charging a Fee to Download Forms and a Further Fee to Provide Assistance With Completing Applications, Petitions or Requests

Nature of Scam

Some websites, fraudulently claiming to be affiliated with USCIS, charge a fee to download USCIS forms and offer to provide assistance in completing applications, petitions or requests, at a further fee.

How to Respond

Ensure you visit only genuine U.S Government websites, which are identifiable from the .gov suffix. All USCIS forms are available free of charge, on their official website, in official USCIS offices and by telephone request.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, the scams above represent only a fraction of the true number of scams in operation today. It is therefore extremely important to guard your personal information carefully. Be wary of any individual who telephones you unexpectedly, requesting sensitive information and/or payment. Do not feel pressurized or intimidated into handing over personal data or making a payment in circumstances where you are not confident of the identity of the person to whom you are speaking. If you have instructed an attorney to act on your behalf in a U.S immigration matter, U.S Officials will communicate directly with your attorney about your case and will have no reason to contact you directly.

At Davies Legal, we pride ourselves on providing innovative solutions to all your U.S immigration needs. We provide a meticulous service encompassing regular case updates, timely responses to emails/telephone calls and a fully flexible service at a competitive fixed fee, to enable you to budget effectively for your legal fees. Call now for advice on how we can assist you with your U.S immigration application and for a fixed fee quote for our services.

Published: 30th April 2017