October 09, 2013

Beware: Widespread Immigration-Related Fraud Schemes Currently on the Rise!

In recent months, there have been reports of widespread immigration-related fraud schemes being carried out in the U.S. Most recently, the Department of State, Office of Visa Services, has received an increase of complaints regarding fraudulent emails and letters sent to Diversity Visa applicants. The scammers pose as U.S. government officials attempting to collect payment from unsuspecting applicants. If you are a Diversity Visa applicant, do not respond to these e-mails and never send money. Fees for the Diversity Visa application process are paid to the U.S. Embassy or consulate cashier at the time of your scheduled appointment. The U.S. government will never ask you to send payment in advance by check, money order or wire transfer.

In addition, there have been reports of foreign national employees receiving phone calls from people posing as USCIS or DHS officers. The caller may state that there is some discrepancy in USCIS records and ask for confirmation of data, such as an I-94 number, an "A" number or a visa control number. The caller may then tell the foreign national employee that there is a penalty for not clearing up the discrepancy, and that the individual is to send a sum of money via Western Union to an address the caller provides. These scammers also use sophisticated "spoofing" technology where the phone's caller ID will display "U.S. Immigration," "911" or "USCIS."

If a foreign national employee receives a call from anyone stating that he or she is from USCIS, be wary! That's because the agency rarely calls anyone—it tends to rely more on written communications. If the foreign national employee is called, the employee should ask for the caller's name, department and a phone number at which the employee can call back. At this point, the scammer will most likely hang up. In any event, the employee should never provide the caller with any personal information and should never pay the "penalty" fee. These calls are not legitimate. If the foreign national employee receives one of these calls, report the fraud scheme at your soonest opportunity. This may be done by emailing reportfraud@dhs.gov, online with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection or to law enforcement in your state. If the foreign national employee transferred funds or provided personal information, after filing a complaint with the FTC, instruct them to closely monitor their credit report and card accounts.

Note: USCIS may conduct in person site visits through its Fraud Detection unit but would never ask the employee to pay a penalty fee (or any kind of fee for that matter). In person site visits may occur at the place of employment listed on the petition. The officer in these cases will ask to speak to HR, a supervisor, the individual who signed the petition or the employee to confirm the information listed on the petition. These types of site visits are legitimate.

Faegre Baker Daniels uses state-of-the art, web-based immigration case management software to safeguard its highly sensitive information. The system provides the highest level of data encryption by utilizing McAfee Secure to conduct daily enterprise level vulnerability scanning and penetration testing.

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