We often hear of financial scams targeting senior citizens or college students getting caught up with scholarship scams, but another group of victims are those who seek immigration services. As new immigration laws go into effect this year, many people will need help going through the process. Unfortunately, there are con artists out there who will take advantage of those who are trying to do the right thing. BBB serving San Diego, Orange and Imperial Counties advises consumers looking into immigration services to be aware fraudulent immigration tricks.
Visa Lottery Scam
According to the U.S. Department of State, 50,000 diversity visas are available to randomly selected people who follow eligibility requirements and come from other countries with low percentages of immigration into the United States. These visas are coveted and con artists use that to their advantage, advertising fake website or sending bogus emails related to:
Emails and websites may claim to make the process of entering the immigration program easier and faster if you pay a certain amount of money, or even identify some as “winners” of a visa lottery. These emails and websites are most often a scam. The only way you can apply for the Diversity Visa lottery is through an official government application process. The Department of State will not send emails to individual applicants. You can also visit the Department of State website for verification to see if you are an actual winner.
Some local businesses “guarantee” they can offer benefits, such as a Visa or an Employment Authorization Document. They may charge a higher fee to complete the application than what the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) charges for faster service. These benefit claims are fraudulent and unnecessarily expensive. There are a few exceptions to the normal USCIS processing times, and to find more information visit uscis.gov.
Do not become a victim to phishing telephone scams pretending to be USCIS personnel or other government officials. In most cases scammers will:
If you happen to be in a situation where a scammer does call you, simply hang up. USCIS will never call to ask for any form of payment over the phone.
Scammers often create fake immigration websites to trick victims into providing personal and financial information. Only trust official websites such as uscis.gov, which offers step-by-step guidance on completing USCIS immigration forms. Their official website also provides downloadable application forms, instructions and information on filing fees and processing times.
INS No Longer Exists
Some local businesses, websites and individuals still make reference to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Be aware that this agency no longer exists. INS was terminated in March 2003. Most of its functions were transferred to three new components within the Department of Homeland Security.
Furthermore, if you have become a victim of an immigration scam, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or subscribe to the USCIS Executive Actions on Immigration web page for immigration updates. Visit our website at bbb.org call us at (858) 496-2131 for additional information.