A rapidly growing area of fraud in the U.S. involves taking advantage of those needing help with immigration processes. The U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and the Federal Trade Commission recently announced
their initiative to fight immigration services scams.
The common thread in this type of fraud involves the unauthorized practice of immigration law. In 2009, Better Business Bureau received several calls from Spanish-speaking consumers inquiring about a Colorado Springs-based company called Immigration Center
, amongst many other names
, which seemed to be operating in such a manner. The company was shut down in January, 2011 by a federal judge at the request of the FTC.
According to the FTC, the defendants representing the company were charged
with violating federal law by misrepresenting:
- That they were authorized to provide immigration and naturalization services.
- That they were affiliated with the U.S. government.
- That the fees paid by consumers would cover all the costs associated with submitting immigration documents to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
“Communities of non-English speaking people are always at a higher risk for being targets of scams,” said Kim States, BBB President. “Victims of immigration service’s scams face a huge loss of time and money because their forms are often rejected because they were filed by unauthorized service providers.”
BBB advises consumers to follow these tips provided by the FTC to avoid becoming a victim of immigration service’s scams:
- Don't go to a notario, notario público, or a notary public for legal advice. In the U.S., notarios are not lawyers: they can't give you legal advice or talk to government agencies for you, like the (USCIS) or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). A notary public doesn't have to be a lawyer either, and is not allowed to give you legal advice.
- Never pay for blank government forms. Government forms are free, though you'll probably have to pay when you submit them to USCIS. You can get free immigration forms at www.uscis.gov/forms, by calling USCIS at 1-800-870-3676, or by visiting your local USCIS office.
- Get immigration information from U.S. government websites. Some scammers set up websites that look like they are run by the government, but they aren't. Make sure that the website that looks like a government site is a dot gov (.gov). That means it is from the U.S. government.
- Don't let anyone keep your original documents, like your birth certificate or passport. Scammers may keep them until you pay to get them back.
- Never sign a form before it has been filled out, or a form that has false information in it. Never sign a document that you don't understand.
- Keep a copy of every form that you submit, as well as every letter from the government about your application or petition.
- You will get a receipt from USCIS when you turn in your paperwork. Keep it! It proves that USCIS received your application or petition. You will need the receipt to check on the status of your application, so be sure you get a copy.
for more information.