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Essential Tips For Avoiding Immigration Scams

Jun 20, 2024 | Immigration

Immigration scams are deceptive schemes that target individuals seeking to navigate the complex immigration process, often resulting in financial loss, identity theft, and dashed hopes. Many immigrants sink a great deal of their time and money into their journey toward a better life in the United States, with the hope that the reward will be worth the effort! 

However, scams from callous crooks could cause irreparable damage to their lives and still leave them short of accomplishing their immigration goals. If you are an immigrant seeking a visa, green card, citizenship, or other legal status, awareness and prevention are crucial in combating these scams, as they can have devastating consequences for victims. 

In this blog, we aim to educate you on various types of immigration scams, provide tips on how to recognize and avoid them, and offer resources for seeking legitimate assistance and reporting fraudulent activities. By staying informed, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from falling prey to these malicious schemes!

Understanding Common Immigration Scams

In every type of scam, the suspect is looking to either get personal information, money, or some other type of compensation from you.

Fake Immigration Lawyers Or Consultants

This type of scam involves suspects posing as attorneys or individuals who can provide legal advice and guidance. They may present themselves as knowledgeable professionals capable of ensuring successful outcomes or expedited processing for a fee. However, in reality, they lack the necessary legal credentials, training, and ethical standards required to practice immigration law legitimately.

Phony Websites And Online Services

You might come across a website or other online service that tries to seem like it is the official government website or in relation to them. All official government websites end in .gov, so this is a clear indicator that it is legitimate. 

Email And Phone Scams

These scams are rampant and do not only target immigrants, but you may fall victim if you believe the person contacting you to be from the government or a legal firm. Scammers may call, text, or email you; at first, they might seem legitimate because they have a lot of your personal information. However, the government will never ask you to transfer money this way. 

They do not accept Western Union, MoneyGram, PayPal, Venmo, or gift cards as payment for immigration fees. In addition, they will never ask you to pay fees to a person on the phone or by email. You can pay some immigration fees online, but only if you pay through your USCIS online account and Pay.gov.

Moreover, the government will never attempt to reach you through social media accounts like Instagram, Facebook, X (Twitter), or Snapchat, nor will they request funds this way, either. 

Notario Fraud

“Notario scams” refer to a type of fraud where individuals falsely pose as knowledgeable and authorized to provide legal services, particularly in immigration matters. The term “notario” can be confusing because in some countries, such as Latin American countries, a “notario público” holds significant legal authority, similar to a lawyer who can handle legal documents and transactions. 

However, in the United States and other countries, a “notary public” has a much more limited role, mainly verifying signatures on documents. Only an attorney or an accredited representative working for a Department of Justice (DOJ)-recognized organization can give you legal advice. Beware of individuals who pose as immigration attorneys (such as unlicensed or disbarred attorneys). 

Be Aware Of These Red Flags

The following can be dead giveaways that you are being scammed:

  • Promises of guaranteed outcomes or expedited processing – Honest and legitimate consultants will be up-front about wait times, fees, and eligibility criteria. No one can guarantee that your immigration pursuit will be successful or do anything to change processing times. 
  • Requests for payment via unconventional methods – Once again, the government will never ask you to pay immigration fees through Western Union, MoneyGram, PayPal, Venmo, or gift cards.
  • No explanations – A skilled attorney or government official will be able to walk you through the immigration process in great detail. If you are communicating with a person who can’t or won’t explain the process, they are likely not legitimate. 
  • Requesting or encouraging fraud – Similarly, a legitimate attorney will never ask you to lie, forge signatures, or omit critical information on government forms. 
  • Refuses written communication – If the attorney or “USCIS agent” refuses written communication, they are likely scamming you and do not want their crimes to be documented. 
  • Lack of credentials or licensing – Always review the credentials of your attorney! Ensure that they are educated, licensed, and have testimonials from past clients to back up their experience. 
  • Pressure tactics and urgent demands – Scammers often claim that immediate action is required to avoid severe consequences, such as deportation, legal penalties, or missed deadlines. They may set artificial deadlines, stating that offers or opportunities will expire very soon, forcing the victim to act quickly. 
  • Requests for personal information over phone, email, text, or social media – Any government official that contacts you over the phone will likely already have all of your personal information, so if they are asking for it, this could be a red flag. If they are attempting to contact you through email, they will have an email address that ends in .gov. On the other hand, the government will, again, never attempt to contact you through social media. 

How To Protect Yourself

Protecting yourself from immigration scams involves staying alert and verifying everything. Always check that anyone offering immigration help is a licensed attorney or an accredited representative. You can browse their reviews online or ask them personally to supply you with testimonials from previous clients. Any attorney who refuses this request is not one you should work with! Furthermore, you can use official government websites to confirm their credentials and avoid anyone promising guaranteed visas or super-fast processing; as already stated, these are big red flags.

Be careful with your personal information. Don’t give out sensitive details like your Social Security number or passport info over the phone or email without making sure the request is legitimate. If you get an unsolicited call or email asking for this info, contact the organization directly using verified contact details.

Finally, learn about the official immigration process by conducting your own research, so you can spot anything fishy. If something doesn’t seem right, trust your instincts and double-check. Report any suspicious activities to authorities like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help stop these scams. By being cautious and informed, you can protect yourself on your immigration journey!

Trust Ortega Law Group To Safeguard Your Future!

The best way to ensure you don’t fall victim to immigration scams is to secure experienced, skilled, and qualified legal representation. Our lead attorney, Isaac Ortega, has helped hundreds of clients successfully navigate the immigration system, as well as represented them to the Board of Immigration Appeals, USCIS, and the 9th Circuit Court. We would be more than glad to supply you with testimonials from these clients, so that you can feel as confident as possible in your next steps. Call today to book your free consultation and learn more about how we can serve you!

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