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Beware of Immigration Scammers: How to Protect Yourself

Jun 17, 2024 | immigration, immigration fraud

Introduction

Immigration is a complex and often daunting process, and unfortunately, there are individuals and organizations out there looking to take advantage of those seeking help with their immigration needs.

These scammers prey on the vulnerability of immigrants, promising quick and easy solutions for a hefty fee, only to disappear with the money or provide fraudulent services.

Often, victims then wind up in deportation proceedings, or learn that nothing was ever filed as promised, or that whatever “legalization” path was promised, doesn’t even exist.

Scammers can be licensed lawyers, non-licensed immigration consultants, paralegals, travel agents or other individuals or organizations providing immigration-related services.

Scammers can wear a fancy suit or a dress, have a proper office, a website, and even certificates hanging on their walls.

In this blog post, I will discuss the common immigration scams, how you can protect yourself, and what steps you can take if you are a victim of an immigration scam.

What do immigration scammers do?

Scammers have grown more sophisticated.

They produce realistic looking USCIS filing receipts (but with receipt format that doesn’t exist in reality) purporting to show that an application the client paid for was “filed” with USCIS.

Often, the receipts have typographical errors, wrong fee amounts, and other mistakes.

They pretend to be immigration services officers, and working with the scammer, they conduct fake video or in-person interviews (at non-USCIS building) and “approve” a green card or citizenship application that was never filed.

The client then just waits and waits for a green card that will never arrive or an oath ceremony that will never happen.

They file applications for benefits for which a person is simply not eligible.

By the time the client discovers they were ineligible, the scammers have taken their money and say the government was “wrong” and they were “right.”

They create fake stories for their clients, such as the client being abused by a spouse or a child, when in fact that never happened.

These are just a few of the common immigration scams. There are many more!

Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself from immigration scammers

Unfortunately, immigration scams are on the rise, costing hardworking immigrants loss of time of money.

By the time scam is uncovered, the victims are in a much more serious position, such as facing deportation or loss of employment or other benefit.

Some scammers are caught and prosecuted, but many remain out in the open, continuing to take advantage of the unsuspecting victims.

So how can you protect yourself from being a victim of an immigration scam?

Recognize immigration scams

Many immigration scams have common elements:

Promises of Guaranteed Results: No immigration consultant or lawyer can guarantee you a specific outcome. If someone promises you a green card, citizenship, or a visa – especially without knowing the specifics of your case – it’s likely a scam.

Pressure to Act Quickly: Scammers often create a sense of urgency, pressuring you to act immediately or risk losing out on an opportunity (that may not even exist). Take your time to research and verify with proper authorities before making any decisions.

Unsolicited Offers of Help: Be cautious of anyone who contacts you offering immigration services without you reaching out to them first. Legitimate professionals do not typically solicit clients in this manner.

Demands of Payment Upfront: Reputable immigration professionals, such as lawyers, will usually not ask for all payment upfront before providing any services. Be wary of anyone demanding immediate and full payment.

Protect yourself

Research, Research, Research: Before engaging with an immigration consultant or lawyer, research their credentials, reviews, and track record. Verify that they are licensed or authorized to provide immigration services. Keep in mind, only licensed LAWYERS are allowed to give LEGAL advice. Travel agents, paralegals, and other form preparers are not allowed to give legal advice.

Get Everything in Writing: Ensure that all promises, fees, and services are clearly outlined in a written contract. Do not sign anything you do not understand or agree with. Ask for receipts for payments. Reputable immigration service provider will always give you receipts for payments.

Ask Questions: A legitimate immigration professional will be happy to answer your questions and provide you with information about your case during a consultation and when you are their client. If they are evasive or unwilling to provide clear answers, it’s a red flag. Keep in mind, only LAWYERS are allowed to give LEGAL advice. Travel agents, paralegals, and other form preparers are not allowed to give legal advice. Doing so constitutes the crime of unauthorized practice of law.

Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off or too good to be true, it probably is. Listen to your gut and walk away if you feel uncomfortable or pressured.

What to do if you’ve been scammed

If you believe you have been the victim of an immigration scam, there are steps you can take to report it and seek help:

Report to Authorities: Contact the relevant authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your state’s attorney general’s office, to report the scam.

File a Complaint: File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or other consumer protection agencies.

Seek Legal Assistance: Consult with a reputable licensed immigration lawyer to understand your rights and options for recourse.  Remember, a paralegal, consultant, or a travel agent are not authorized to give legal advice!

Conclusion

Immigration scams can have serious consequences, including loss of money, loss of time, and jeopardizing your immigration status.

By staying informed, asking questions, and verifying credentials, you can protect yourself from falling victim to these scams.

Ruchi Thaker