Avoiding Immigration Scams

U.S. non-citizens are frequently targeted by scam artists who want to extract money and compromising information from them.

The offers of scam artists may sound enticing, and in your desire to save money or take a shortcut in an application process, you may believe their assertions. It's crucial to remain vigilant and skeptical, always asking questions and double-checking any claim. Falling prey to a scam can mean that you'll lose money, experience setbacks in your efforts to remain in the U.S., and, in some cases, face criminal charges and deportation.

False websites. One common scam run by criminals is to set up a website that resembles an actual government website. From there, they may try to get you to submit forms with sensitive information and pay various fees. Make certain that you're on a legitimate U.S. government website; always double-check the URL.

Possession of key documents. Never let other people get possession of your passport, birth certificate, or other important documents. Scam artists who do so may make illegal use of your documents or charge you a steep price to get them back.

Dubious signatures. Scam artists will often try to get you to put your signature on various forms, whether they're related to immigration or other matters such as business or real estate deals. They're hoping that a non-citizen will agree to sign a form that appears legitimate, and that they may not understand some of the English. If you sign a form of this kind, you could potentially be entering into a criminal arrangement or a deal that will cost you a lot of money. Never sign a form that you don't understand. Have a trusted translator assist you in interpreting forms, and consult with an attorney to check the legality of any form's contents.

Phony telephone calls and emails. You may receive an email or telephone call from someone claiming to represent the U.S. Government, or more specifically, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They might claim that they urgently need you to wire them money to pay some fee, and they may threaten you with penalties or legal hearings if you don't comply. Never wire them money; the USCIS doesn't contact people in this way. If you have concerns about a given phone call or email, notify the USCIS and double-check with them.

Fictitious credentials. Scam artists can claim to be experts in immigration concerns and will offer to help you prepare and submit important forms, such as citizenship applications or visa renewals. Always check the credentials of the people who assist you and make inquires into their reputation and track record. When you're relying on someone's assistance, always keep receipts and your own copy of any forms you've submitted with their help.

If you're in need of legal advice or assistance with an application process, consult a legitimate and expert immigration attorney. That's a key way to protect yourself from scam artists or minimize the damage if you've already fallen prey to a scam.