Immigrant fraud operation alert

In my column Consulta Migratoria®, which this week celebrates six years of existence, warned about new reports of scammers stalking immigrants.

This is the column:

During the six years that I have been writing this column, I have reported on different topics, including ways to obtain legal immigration status and how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. Once again, it is my turn to inform you that authorities have uncovered a scam operation targeting immigrants.

According to authorities, the scammers are usurping the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) hotline number to commit fraud.

The scammers employ spoofing technology, which falsifies the information transmitted to the caller ID. When contacting their victims, the number displayed appears to be 1-800-323-8603 and they claim to be employees of "U.S. Immigration," but in reality, it is a trap, because they are not calling from that phone number.

Fraudsters use various tactics to extract personal information from their victims, including making them believe they have been victims of identity theft.

The DHS OIG never calls the public through its hotline. It only uses that hotline to receive information from the public, including reports of fraud, abuse or mismanagement of DHS programs.

Do not answer calls from 1-800-323-8603. Also, do not provide personal information if you receive such calls.

If you have been a victim of this kind of fraud, file a complaint with the DHS OIG through their hotline (1-800-323-8603) or their web site. You can also complain to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission through its website.

How to verify if a call is from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

If you want to verify if a call is from USCIS, you can:

* Call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to ask if you need to do anything about your case or immigration status.

* Make an InfoPass appointment to visit a local USCIS office to inquire about your immigration case.

* Use the myUSCIS service to find updated information about your application and determine if the government has recently sent you a letter requesting more information for your case.

USCIS Officials never threaten you or ask for payment by phone or e-mail. If USCIS needs any payment, they will send you a letter on official USCIS stationery requesting payment.

Never give a payment over the phone to a person claiming to be a USCIS officer. You must protect your personal information and not provide details about your immigration application in any public area.