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Avoid Scams Targeting Refugees

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) wants to combat immigration services scams by equipping applicants, legal service providers and community-based organizations with the knowledge and tools they need to detect and protect themselves from dishonest practices.

  • Visit USCIS's Avoid Scams webpage for information on where to report scams in your state, and to access tools and educational resources about avoiding scams.

Continue reading below about specific recent scams targeting refugees:


August 2014: Fraud scheme to rob refugees of personal data

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) would like to warn you of a new fraud scheme to rob refugees of personal data, which can be used to commit identity theft. Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center (EMBARC), an ORR grantee from Iowa, reports that  some of their clients were visited by two men claiming to be cell phone company representatives. These men went door to door asking refugee families for their social security numbers, Medicaid numbers, and dates of birth, promising them free cell phones in return.

ORR urges you to be aware that there are several criminals seeking to take advantage of newly arrived refugees who may not realize the need to protect their personal information from thieves and other criminals. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is following scam attempts such as these, and encourages anyone contacted with similar scams to report them through the FTC website. Their recently published Consumer Alert provides valuable tips on how to avoid being victimized, and what to do in case you are contacted. They have also set up a new web page, Avoiding Scams Against Immigrants, with information and materials in several languages.

Unfortunately, people are getting hurt by this scam: some refugees are losing thousands of dollars. How can you avoid scams like this?

  • Do not give important personal information - or money - to someone you don't know or to someone who contacts you unexpectedly.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to unknown persons who seek payment or solicits charitable contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials asking for payments or donations, door-to-door, via phone, mail, e-mail or social networking sites.
  • If you are a refugee and get a call like this, talk to the case manager at your resettlement agency immediately. Then report it to the Federal Trade Commission online or at 1-877-FTC-HELP. Information courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission, FTC Consumer Alert Resettled refugees are once again advised to consult with their local resettlement agencies if someone claiming to represent the government contacts them, especially if there are promises of cash or prizes.
  • If these scammers come to your home, report the incident to your local police. Please help the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) spread the warning about these scams, and stop others from being victimized by these criminals.

August 2013: Telephone Scam Targeting Refugees:

In 2013, 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/.