Calling all immigrants! Have you received a call from someone claiming to be an “U.S. immigration officer” who asked for money for a family member bond hearing perhaps? Then read on.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning immigrants to be extra aware as scammers pretending to be from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are calling or sending out emails to trick them into giving up money or personal information.
Here’s how this immigration scam often goes, according to the FTC. An immigrant gets a call or email saying they’ve violated the U.S. immigration law; that their identity information is wrong or out of date; or that they owe fees or need to pay an immigration bond.
The scammers, all the time pretending to be an U.S. immigration officer calling from USCIS or ICE, will threaten to alert the police or to have you deported if you don’t give them the information they want. Fueled by fear and desperation, many poor immigrants, many of them with families seeking asylum in the U.S. and who are locked away by the tens of thousands each year as their cases proceed, fall for the scam, as they desperately want to see them released and to be reunited.
The scammers will also tell you not to talk to anyone else about it—which means you can’t double-check their story and find out it’s nothing but a SCAM. This is similar to scammers pretending to be calling you from government agencies like the Social Security Administration, Medicare and the IRS. But it’s a trick. Learn the signs and avoid being their next victim.
Here are things you should know about how U.S. immigration works to avoid being taken:
1: No officer from ICE or USCIS will ever call out of the blue and demand money. So, if you get such a call and the caller wants you to pay a fee or share personal details like your date of birth or bank account numbers, hang up or call them out for their scam and then hang up. I would say something like: “OK scammer, I’m going to dial the cops on the other line right now.” See how fast they scamper off.
2: Neither ICE nor USCIS accept payments using gift cards, cryptocurrency, or wire transfers. If someone asks you to pay this way, it’s a scam. Always! Do not fall for it.
3: Even if it says USCIS or U.S. ICE, don’t trust the caller ID. Scammers today are making their phone numbers look real even if they’re not. Sometimes they’ll have you look up their number to confirm it’s what’s listed on the agency’s website but even if it matches, it could be a trick.
Check with ICE or USCIS if you’re unsure about whether a call or email is real. Never call back phone numbers in caller ID or left in voicemails or emails. Instead, type the agency name into a search bar and click on their webpage to find contact information.
And remember, if you or a loved one you know has been the victim of such a scam or spot it, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov pronto.
For more information on these types of scams, visit ftc.gov/imposters.
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.com – The Black Immigrant Daily News.