Scammers on the prowl for personal information and with the goal of extorting money, are posing as immigration agents and other government entities and are doing so over the phone, using fake Department of Homeland Security (DHS) numbers.
Phone scams and extortion is nothing new, but the DHS Office of Inspector General's Office issued a fraud alert to warn immigrants and the general population about this new threat.
The scammers are using a technique called "Caller ID spoofing," whereby they alter caller ID systems to make it appear that the call is coming from a DHS number such as (202)282-8000 or (202)401-1474, when in fact it is not coming from any government agency.
The goal of scammers is to obtain or verify personal information (such as a Social Security number) through a variety of tactics. For example, they tell the person that they are victims of identity theft. They also pose as law enforcement or immigration officials and threaten victims with arrest if they do not pay them a certain amount of money.
In some cases, scammers have also sent e-mails to victims from e-mail addresses ending in "uscis.org".
The DHS Office of Inspector General is investigating the situation. In the meantime, it emphasizes that DHS never makes calls of that nature from its phone lines.
Persons receiving telephone calls from these numbers should not provide any personal information.
If in doubt, they can safely make calls to the DHS central operator's number. The problem is receiving threatening calls from these altered numbers.
Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of this telephone "spoofing" scam should call the DHS Office of Inspector General hotline at 1-800-323-8603 or file a complaint online through the DHS OIG website www.oig.dhs.gov.