Don’t Fall for It! How to Spot Immigration Scams

Scams are becoming more sophisticated every day and can cost a lot of money and heartaches if we fall into the trap. This is particularly concerning for the immigrant population as they’re a prime target for scammers. But that doesn’t mean we have to take it lying down! 

This guide will teach you how to prevent these criminals from taking advantage of our community in moments of vulnerability. We suggest that you share this information with your loved ones as ‘our chain is only as strong as our weakest link’.

False Legal Advisors and “Notaries”

Fake lawyers and cheaters posing as notarios deceive their victims by approaching them when they’re seeking legal advice on immigration matters.They would lead immigrants to believe that they are ‘certified’ lawyers. 

You should know that notaries in the U.S. aren’t necessarily lawyers, but individuals appointed by state governments to witness the signing of key documents and administer oaths. A notary isn’t authorized to provide you with any immigration-related legal advice.

Keep in mind: The only professionals who can give you legal advice on immigration issues are lawyers and accredited representatives working for organizations recognized by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) within the Department of Justice.

For a complete list of accredited legal representatives, click here.

Phone and Email Immigration Scams

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The scammer usually impersonates a worker from the U.S. Department of Immigration. They will usually ask victims for personal and payment information. Keep an eye out for this.

Keep in mind: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will never ask you to pay fees by transferring money over a phone call or via email.

Please note that the methods to pay filing fees to USCIS include:

  1. By mail: When mailing an application, you must pay filing fees by check or money order. Don’t forget to write "Department of Homeland Security" on the "Pay to the Order of" line.
  2. Online: You can only do this by logging into your USCIS online account, where you can pay with a credit or debit card or a U.S. bank account.
  3. In-person: You can also pay with a credit card, debit card, or check at any USCIS office in the United States that accepts payments.

You can learn more about the legitimate payment methods by clicking here.

Online Immigration Scams 

Some fraudulent websites claim to be affiliated with USCIS and offer instructions for completing immigration paperwork. To protect yourself from these criminals, make sure you’re using the official USCIS website—which ends in ".gov"

You can also access the USCIS website by clicking here.

Remember that USCIS doesn’t charge for downloading forms. You can access them for free on their website in English or Spanish. You can also call 800-870-3676 or use their online request service to have forms mailed to you.

Visa Lottery Scams

The potential victim receives an email from a fake U.S. Department of State account stating that they have won the Diversity Visa Program (DV) lottery. The victim is later asked to send money via Western Union or other means to "process the visa application."

Keep in mind: Note that it’s impossible for this to happen, as the DV lottery is free, and the Department of State will never notify you by email that you’ve won. To learn more about how the DV lottery works, click here.
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Deportation Threats

This is perhaps the cruelest form of immigration fraud. Scammers pose as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and show up at their victims' homes or approach them on the street, and then threaten to deport them if they don’t pay a certain amount of money. Sometimes up to thousands of dollars.

Keep in mind: This could never happen with actual ICE agents. A legitimate agent would never suggest receiving a payment in order to avoid arrest.

Report Immigration Fraud

Unfortunately, the Hispanic community is often exposed to scams related to immigration matters. For this reason, we recommend that you keep a healthy dose of skepticism of anyone who makes promises that seem too good to be true.

If you or someone you know is a victim of immigration fraud, consider notifying the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or calling 1-877-382-4357. You can also report immigration scams to the attorney general's office or the bar association in your state.

 You can find out more about immigration scams to protect you and your family here.