Both immigrants and non-immigrants must request status related benefits/permissions from various U.S. government agencies, and may be unfamiliar with U.S. government procedures and methods, making both groups susceptible to immigration related scams to obtain personal information and/or money.
General tips on how to safeguard your personal information and prevent identity theft can be found on The Federal Trade Commissions' website.
Learn how to report an immigration related scam to the State of Louisiana here.
Scams can also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission here.
Please also report any suspicious emails, text messages, telephone calls or mail regarding your immigration status or immigration related applications and benefits to the Office of International Services at InternationalServices@lsuhsc.edu so we can alert other students, exchange visitors and employees.
Reporting an immigration related scan will NOT impact your status, application or petition.
See a list of the most recent scams identified by the U.S. government here.
For a specific list of the most used immigration related scams, click here.
Before sending money, check the following:
Are you being asked to pay for blank immigration forms? All forms are available for FREE on the USCIS website!! NEVER pay for blank forms!!!
Who is the check or money order made payable to? Do NOT send checks or money orders payable to CASH.
The INS no longer exists!! This agency was absorbed into The Department of Homeland Security in 2003, and the immigration benefit component of the old INS now operates as USCIS. Do not send payments to the INS!!
Pay attention to the mailing/website address.
Are you being asked to wire money? USCIS does NOT accept funds by wire transfer. (Ex. Western Union, etc.)
Is your payment to be made using one of these methods?
Payments to USCIS (paper filings)
Payments to USCIS (ELIS filings--Form I-539 and Immigrant fee ONLY)
Payments to Department of State (FMJ SEVIS fee)
Recent OPT related scam (April 2013)
An international student in New York City received a phone call from someone claiming to be from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS/USDHS). The phone number matched the USCIS toll-free number. The caller claimed that on a recent trip abroad, the student had not filled out his I-94 card correctly and USCIS caught the error on the student's pending OPT application.
The caller had the student’s name, date of birth, address, phone number, and could confirm the last 4 digits of his I-94 number. The caller told the student that he needed to leave the United States immediately because a criminal case was pending against him.
When the student said he could not travel abroad currently, the caller said that "USCIS" could help him but only if he took action and sent money within the next two hours. The student was told that if he did not send money immediately, he would be deported within 24 hours. The student told the caller that he needed to call his International Students and Scholars Office to verify, but the caller said that if he hung up or even put the caller on hold, "USCIS" could not help him. The caller also told him that "USCIS" had already sent a court summons to his home address abroad but there had been no response.
The caller then gave the student detailed instructions on how to send money via Western Union from a nearby RiteAid. The caller also told him that in order to fix the I-94 problem, he would need to pay additional money for a temporary A#, which he would then need to take to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at JFK Airport where the student would be assisted further.
Unfortunately, the panicked student fell for the scam and ended up sending over $1,600 to "USCIS."
Recent "I Security Number" DS-2019 related Scam (July 2013)
A J scholar got a call from "US High Commission" claiming he was missing an "I Security number" on column 20 of his DS2019. They gave him his "I-94 number" (but it was only the OMB number) and then said he had to take the next flight back home, pay $1450 and go to the local consulate to get this I Security Number. Alternatively, if he didnt' want to go back home, he could pay $1450 via MoneyPaks and they would tell him what his I Security number would be in 15 days.
More about MoneyPak scams can be found at: https://www.moneypak.com/ProtectYourMoney.aspx
The scammer had even set up the call so that the caller ID number was the same as the USCIS Customer Service Number. This is very easy to do!
Warning from USCIS (August 2013-USCIS email notice)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) learned of a new telephone scam targeting USCIS applicants and petitioners. Scammers are using a technique called “Caller ID spoofing” to display a misleading or inaccurate phone number in a recipient’s Caller ID. The scammer poses as a USCIS official and requests personal information (such as Social Security number, passport number, or A-number), identifies supposed issues in the recipient’s immigration records, and asks for payment to correct these records.
If you receive a call like that, USCIS urges you to say “No, thank you” and hang up immediately.
USCIS never asks for any form of payment or personal information over the phone. Do not give payment or personal information over the phone to anyone who claims to be a USCIS official. In general, we encourage you to protect your personal information and not to provide details about your immigration application in any public area.
If you have been a victim of this telephone scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/, or report it to an appropriate state authority. (Visit www.uscis.gov/avoidscams for information on where to report scams in your state.)
If you have a question about your immigration record, please call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283, or make an InfoPass appointment by visiting our website at http://infopass.uscis.gov/
Warning from SEVP (May 2015-SEVP Broadcast Email)
Recently, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) became aware that scammers are targeting students in the Chicago area in an attempt to solicit funds on behalf of the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee. Scammers are requesting those targeted to send up to $4,000 to avoid deportation. The scammers are using the ‘Location Services’ app on students’ cellular devices to find the students’ location and threaten them with continued pursuit if they do not receive the money. The incidents are currently under investigation by the Chicago Police Department and SEVP intends to cooperate fully and will provide additional information as it becomes available.
Red Flag 1
Disregard any phone call from a person attempting to collect an I-901 Fee on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and SEVP. The process that SEVP has in place for the collections of unpaid I-901 Fees does not involve contacting students via phone to threaten or request money.
Red Flag 2
Additionally, scammers are reportedly requesting up to $4,000 in I‑901 Fees; an I-901 Fee is $200 at the most. The only time the requested Fee will be more is if a student has a returned check. The additional amount would be limited to small, related service charges for bank processing.
What to do if you receive this type of phone call?
Students should not give any information to the person on the phone, nor should they send any funds to the scammers. Those targeted need to immediately call their local Police Department and contact their school official to report the incident to SEVP.
IRS related Scam Targetting Non-Residents and Visa Holders (July 2015)
In the scam, a form and cover letter, supposedly from the IRS, are faxed to people with instructions to fax the completed form back to the number contained in the letter. The letter says that the IRS requires authentication of the recipient’s tax information and references the 30% withholding if the information is not provided within one week.
The letter also instructs that, if the recipient is a “USA Citizen and resident”, to indicate such on the form, and they will send a form W9095. This form does not exist.
The form contained in the fax is titled “Form W-8Ben (NRA Recertification), Request for Recertification of Foreign Status”. This is not a legitimate IRS form.
The form requests personally identifiable information, such as mother’s maiden name, spouse’s name and date of birth. It also asks for Bank name(s), account numbers, and date account(s) was opened.
The real form W-8BEN is only submitted to withholding agents (i.e., scholarship payors, banks reporting interest) and does NOT ask for this information.
Please be advised, the IRS does not ask taxpayers to provide the type of information specified on this form. Additionally, IRS would not initiate contact via fax or request information to only be sent by fax.