Plenty of scammers prey on and take advantage of foreigners in the midst of their U.S. immigration procedures. Using deceit and capitalizing on fear and desperation, these criminals exploit their victims for money or other sensitive personal information.
By reporting, you can fight and prevent immigration fraud and other related crimes. The safety and well-being of our community is a top priority for SABEResPODER. We created this guide to help you learn about and identify different types of immigration-related fraud and how to report it.
What’s Immigration Fraud?
Fraud is illegal or wrongful deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
In cases of immigration fraud, a person deceives a country’s authorities in order to obtain immigration benefits.
What’s an Immigration Scam?
In general, a scam is a deceitful operation committed against a third party to gain financial profit. There are many types of scams out there, but all of them are crimes. Immigration scams typically consist of a person or group of people deceiving an immigrant to obtain some sort of benefit from them, generally money or personal information.
For example, the scammers might advertise help with the immigration process or another benefit in exchange for money. The foreigner pays, but they never receive what they’re promised. Another common scam is for criminals to pose as recruiters for foreign workers. They entice foreigners with a job and a work visa if they pay in advance, then they disappear.
The Most Common Immigration Scams and Fraud
There are many types of immigration procedure-related scams and fraud. Below we'll tell you about some of the most common.
Document or identity fraud
This crime involves altering, forging, buying and/or using false identity documents and other documentation to evade immigration laws, obtain other types of immigration benefits, or commit other criminal activity.
This crime involves identity theft in some cases. This means the criminal takes on the identity of someone else, living or dead.
This crime refers to falsely representing or omitting facts in an application or petition to obtain immigration benefits, like a Green Card, U.S. citizenship, political asylum, or a valid visa, to which someone doesn’t have a legal claim.
In some countries, a notary is authorized to give legal advice. In the United States, however, notaries aren’t always licensed attorneys authorized to give legal advice. Unlike in Latin America, notary publics in the U.S. merely act as witnesses who certify signatures of legal documents.
If you need legal advice regarding your immigration status, you’ll have to speak with a licensed attorney or accredited representative. If you meet with a notary who isn’t an accredited representative, they may hurt your chances of immigrating legally.
Fake immigration websites
These are phony websites that wrongly claim to be affiliated with the USCIS. They may use names like “U.S. immigration” or include patriotic symbols such as the U.S. flag or the Statue of Liberty. These websites can charge victims for government forms that can actually be filled out for free. In some cases, these sites sometimes even steal personal information.
Visa lottery scams
The Diversity Visa Program is one way of obtaining a Green Card. It’s free to sign up and winners are chosen at random. A lot of scammers try to trick people by charging them to participate in the lottery and promise either special access or more chances to be selected
While refugees have an immigration status that is different to other immigrants, they often fall victim to scams. One example is scammers telling refugees they’re eligible for a government subsidy. To access this benefit, however, they first have to pay a fee. In other cases, scammers claim to work for the IRS and ask for a refugee’s bank account number to deposit the subsidy money. Unfortunately, the subsidy doesn’t even exist.
A fraudulent marriage is when a foreigner marries a citizen of a country strictly for immigration purposes. Sham marriages are a serious crime in the U.S. that can be punishable by heavy fines and prison for both parties involved.
How to Report Immigration Fraud
If you are a victim of a scam or have witnessed fraud in action, the first thing to do is file a police report. You can also report the incident to a federal or state law enforcement agency. These agencies can’t act on these organizations’ behalf, but they can use the information you provide to combat and prevent immigration-related crimes. We’ll tell you about these agencies below.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was created to enforce U.S. immigration and customs laws and protect the country from possible national and public security threats. You can report different types of fraud, scams, and other crimes through this online form.
Some examples of crimes that you can report to ICE are:
Illegal worker exploitation
Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate
The Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) is part of USCIS. Their mission is to protect the nation’s legal immigration system. The Directorate combats immigration fraud, detects threats to public and national security, and maximizes alliances with the intelligence and law enforcement communities.
Because the FDNS is under the USCIS Directorate General, you’ll have to complete the online form provided by the USCIS to report immigration scams or fraud.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the federal agency in charge of supervising legal immigration to the U.S. It's part of the Department of National Security.
You can register immigration scams through this online form provided by USCIS. There you can report the following crimes:
Work visa-related scams (including H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, and EB-5)
Spousal visa-related fraud
Other immigration fraud, scams, and abuse
Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works to prevent fraudulent, deceitful, and illegal business practices on the market. It also helps consumers identify, stop, and prevent these practices. You can report immigration fraud and scams to the FTC at this website. You can share as much or as little personal information as you want. With the information you provide, you help law enforcement agents investigate and prosecute scams and fraud.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, report it to the FTC through this website. This is filed online and works in the following way:
You’ll answer questions about identity theft and your case in particular.
Using the information that you provided, the FTC will create an Identity Theft Report and create a Recovery Plan. You’ll receive a complete assessment that will help you resolve the problems caused by identity theft.
In addition to reporting fraud to the FTC, ICE, or USCIS, you can also report the crime to the state authorities. You can find information about where to report a crime in your state and the local laws that may apply here.
Keep in mind: Reporting scams or fraud won't affect your immigration application or petition. Many states allow people to report these crimes anonymously.
How to Protect Yourself From Immigration Scams and Fraud
To avoid notary scams:
Remember, in the United States, only a licensed attorney who is also a notary public can provide legal advice
Remember that USCIS immigration forms are always free
Avoid signing blank immigration forms or any other form that contains false information about you or your circumstances
Always keep your original documents with you and never allow any notary or anyone else to keep them
To avoid fake immigration websites:
Remember that all legitimate U.S. government websites end in .gov
Remember that USCIS forms are free
You can find accurate and reliable information on immigration at the USCIS website
To avoid visa lottery scams:
Remember that you can only enter the lottery once a year through dvlottery.state.gov
You can only enter the lottery if you're from an eligible country and meet the work or study requirements
Ignore scammers who promise lottery shortcuts
Participation in visa lotteries is free
Remember that winners are selected at random, and no one can influence the results
Don't forget that visiting dvlottery.state.gov is the only way to check the status of your request
To avoid scams against refugees:
If you're a refugee and someone calls you to provide government assistance, contact your resettlement agency case worker immediately
Be wary of people or “agencies” that promise to help with immigration processes and ask for gift cards, bank transfers, or cryptocurrency as payment
Find more information on the USCIS website
To resolve any immigration issue, speak with a professional
Licensed attorneys and representatives of U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)-accredited organizations are the only people who can give legal advice on immigration issues. A representative doesn’t necessarily have a law degree, but they’re authorized to provide legal advice on immigration matters. The U.S. Department of Justice provides a list of immigration attorneys that offer pro bono or low-cost services. You can also check the list of accredited organizations and representatives written by the DOJ Recognition and Accreditation Program.
How Can I Report Other Scams and/or Fraud?
Unfortunately, scammers work day and night to steal money and information or falsely obtain benefits that they’re not entitled to. Depending on the type of scam or fraud committed, you’ll have to report it on the corresponding site.
The following list explains where to report some common types of scams and fraud:
Cyber scams and fraud. To report phishing or malware, speak with the International Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
Tax scams. If you know of an impostor who’s posing as an IRS agent, you can report them to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or call 1-800-366-4484
Mail fraud. You can report false advertising sent by mail, letter theft, and other related crimes to the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)
Social Security Fraud. You can report alleged fraud, misuse, or abuse of Social Security resources to the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration
Phone scams. For inflated charges on your bill (cramming), illegal changes to your phone service (slamming), and unwanted calls, file a report with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
You can learn about other types of fraud and scams here
Keep in mind: Phishing is when a scammer steals your identity or personal information through fake emails, text messages, or phony websites. Malware is a computer program that installs itself on your device without your consent. Using malware, a criminal can steal your personal information, send unwanted or inappropriate notifications, and demand ransom to decode encrypted data, among other crimes.
Protect Yourself From Immigration Scams and Fraud!
We are confident that this guide will provide you and your family with the tools to protect yourselves against possible immigration-related scams and fraud. Your report will help you solve your personal situation as well as assist the U.S. authorities in combating and preventing new crimes that affect more victims.
Your contribution can be extremely valuable and help your community significantly. If you have any questions about this topic or anything else, feel free to chat with us. And remember, when it comes to preventing immigration fraud, SABEResPODER!