In my column This week's Consulta Migratoria® lists some of the most common immigration scams and details what the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is doing to combat this type of fraud.
This is the column:
Desperation to obtain legal status causes many immigrants to seek immediate solutions and guarantees - something that is not possible.
Remember, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.
This week marks the 18th annual National Consumer Protection Week, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is taking the opportunity to raise public awareness about the dangers and consequences of immigration fraud, how to avoid falling victim to scammers, and how to report scammers.
Please, before turning to people who make many promises and may jeopardize your future in this country, reflect on the value of having legal status in the United States.
USCIS warns that the following scams are the most common:
Notaries public - Although in many Latin American countries notaries are lawyers with legal credentials, in the United States they are not. Here notaries can only witness the signing of documents and cannot give legal advice. If they do, they are breaking the law. The problem is that many individuals offer immigration legal services, without knowing what they are doing, and can harm immigration proceedings. Often, they even charge more money than a real immigration attorney.
2. Telephone Scams - There are scammers posing as USCIS officials asking for your personal information, such as your Social Security number or alien number. They tell you that they have found problems in your immigration records and that they can correct them if you make a payment. USCIS will never telephone an immigrant to ask for payment. If someone calls posing as a USCIS officer, hang up the phone immediately and report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
3. Local business - Businesses established in immigrant communities that "guarantee" benefits such as visas, green cards and work permits. They also claim that they can process applications faster than going directly to USCIS. This is FALSE.
4. Fraudulent websites - There are some websites that claim to be affiliated with USCIS or the government, but the email address ends in .com, not .gov. If you need to download forms for immigration applications, just use the official USCIS website, which is www.uscis.gov. There you can find all the information you need, including instructions for the forms, fees, and processing times.
5. Visa Lottery - If you receive an email claiming you won the visa lottery, it is a scam. The U.S. Department of State does not send emails to applicants for the Diversity Visa, commonly called the visa lottery.
As part of its commitment to combat immigration scams, USCIS has conducted numerous anti-fraud campaigns, and offers a number of online resources to assist immigrants seeking information or reporting scammers.
How to report immigration fraud and scams:
1. If you receive a suspicious email, forward it to the USCIS Webmaster mailbox: email@example.com.
Remember, only an attorney or a representative accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) is authorized to provide legal immigration advice or assistance.
The USCIS offers information and advice online on how to find licensed legal help and how to verify that they are licensed to practice law. You can find these resources by clicking here.