It is well known that scam artists tend to focus their efforts on the more vulnerable members of our society. The elderly frequently get conned due to failing mental health, or by being easily tricked, or physically intimidated. However, recently, due to changes in immigration policy, scammers have been turning their attention to immigrants.
Immigrants that are worried about their undocumented status, have immigration paperwork pending, or even those with legal status, have been targeted though various schemes and cons. Undocumented immigrants are particularly vulnerable because they frequently fear contacting law enforcement due to their undocumented status, and the scammers know this and know how to take advantage of this fear.
Below you'll find three different types of scams that immigrants should know.
1. Fake ICE or Federal Agent Pay to Stay Scam
This scam generally involves a scammer posing as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, or as some other kind of federal agent, and demanding payment in order to delay or stop a deportation action, or arrest. These types of scams have been done in person with scammers in fake uniforms or with fake badges, and over the phone. Generally, ICE is not going to accept money in exchange for anything, and payment of money won't stop a real deportation.
2. Fake Immigration Lawyer With Info About Your Case Scam
Perhaps worse than impersonating a federal agent, scammers have even taken to impersonating immigration attorneys in order to sign up immigrant clients then vanish with their money. Frequently, these scammers will manufacturer a fake reason for the immigrant to hire them, such as the attorney having inside info from ICE or INS about them, or will claim that there's some easy, surefire way to get a green card, or will even claim that there is a legal action pending against them.
Generally, attorneys are barred from initiating, or cold calling, clients to solicit services, so if you are contacted by an attorney asking you to hire them, you should probably ignore it, report it, or investigate further.
3. Fake Immigration Agent Offers to Help Scam
Scammers love to impersonate government officials and agents because victims will hesitate to challenge an authority figure, especially when something good can happen. Here, scammers will pose as INS agents and offer immigrants expedited green cards, or other legal documents, for a fee. After the fee is received, scammers either just vanish, or they send fake documents. This scam preys not on peoples' fears, but on their hopes, which makes it that much worse.
Unfortunately, immigrants need to be wary of those trying to help, or threatening legal action, unexpectedly. It has been discovered that some scammers obtain the contact information of immigrants by attending legal clinics and information sessions designed to assist immigrants. If you or someone you know has been targeted by one of these scams, you may wish to contact police, or contact a qualified immigration attorney first to get more information about your legal situation and potential ramifications. If you live in a sanctuary city, you should feel free to contact your local police so long as the sanctuary policies remain in place.