Multiple immigration agencies have recently released warnings about immigration scams that are designed to target immigrants and their families.
The goal of most of these scams is to get you to provide them with sensitive personal information or to send them money electronically, and they are often accompanied with threats if you don’t comply.
So today we’re going to take a look at five of these scams, how you can spot them, and tips for how to avoid falling victim to fraudulent activity.
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According to the US Department of State, scammers have been sending fraudulent emails to Diversity Visa program applicants, posing as the US government in an attempt to get money from them.
Sometimes they will say they can help you win the visa lottery or increase your chances of winning.
Others will say that you’ve won the lottery and request that you pay money to process your application.
But registering for the Diversity Visa Lottery is free, and winners do not pay a fee until they go in for their scheduled appointment.
So keep that in mind and remember that the US government will never ask for an advance payment by check, money order, or wire transfer.
US Customs and Border Patrol has issued a nationwide warning about scammers posing as CBP agents in an attempt to get banking information.
The scam happens over the phone, where you hear a pre-recorded message that says a box of drugs and money was intercepted and it has your name on it.
It then instructs you to press #1 to speak with a CBP officer, and the person tries to get your banking information.
Similar scams will have a live person instead of a pre-recorded message.
Remember that the Department of Homeland Security and CBP do not solicit money over the phone, so if you receive a call like this hang up immediately and don’t give them any personal information.
DHS also recently announced a scam that targets migrants specifically.
These individuals are receiving phone calls from scammers posing as authority figures from various DHS organizations such as ICE, Customs and Border Patrol, and US consulates.
The scammers will request that money be sent electronically to help their family get some service or consideration, or to purchase travel tickets.
They will even demand money be sent and threaten some negative action if you fail to do so.
Keep in mind that none of these DHS organizations—including US consulates—will request that you pay money over the phone.
The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman has reported that some DHS phone numbers—including the Ombudsman’s main telephone number—have been used as part of a telephone spoofing scam.
Spoofing is when scammers falsify the information that appears on the caller ID so it appears you are being called by an official government number.
Once you answer, they then use various tactics—including the threat of identity theft—to get sensitive information from you.
Just remember that no US government office will ask for sensitive information such as social security numbers or credit card information over the phone.
Finally, the US Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General recently issued a Public Service Announcement warning of scammers targeting immigrants, minority groups, and people with foreign ties.
Similar to the Ombudsman scam we just discussed, they call from spoofed phone numbers that appear to be official, or send emails from addresses that resemble official DHS email addresses.
They then make unfounded claims such as:
They then threaten to have you arrested, cancel your visa, or have you deported if you do not provide them with passwords, credit card numbers, payment, or some other form of sensitive personal information.
Keep in mind that all government emails come from emails that end in “.gov,” and that DHS never uses contact numbers listed on its website to make outgoing calls.
Some of the best ways to avoid these types of scams is to be wary of answering phone numbers you don’t recognize, and to never give your personal information over the phone to people you don’t know.
If the phone call or email you received seems official, remember that no US government agency will call asking for payment of money, credit card numbers, passwords, or banking information.
And avoid working with consultants and companies that are not authorized to give legal advice, especially if they claim they can improve your chances of success.