Immigration services scams are a major problem for immigrants and for US immigration authorities. These US fraud scams target immigrants and many newcomers are scammed into giving up money for useless services or are scammed into becoming targets of identity theft. Now, the USCIS and other US immigration authorities are getting serious about all scams that target the US immigrant. A new initiative, headed by the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), DOJ (Department of Justice), DHS (Department of Homeland Security), FTC (Federal Trade Commission), aims to target and eliminate such immigration scams.
The initiative will especially target a popular scam in which US immigration representation and legal advice is offered for pay by individuals who are not accredited legal representatives or attorneys. The new initiative will focus on three areas: education, collaboration, and enforcement. The agencies involved will increase education efforts to make immigrants aware of popular scams and to become aware of the signs of a possible scam. The agencies will also work to enforce current laws and pursue scammers. Finally, the agencies will work together to share more information about possible scams in order to ensure that scammers are caught more quickly.
During the past twelve months, the Department of Justice, working with other agencies, has already been prosecuting cases involving otarios,”” individuals who take money for services they are not authorized to offer. If convicted, these individuals could face up to eight years of incarceration as well as restitution payments of more than $1.8 million.
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also been taking part in the initiative through its Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force. The agency has made arrests of people who have been posing as US immigration authorities and filing fraudulent immigration applications.
The FTC has created an Immigration Services code as part of its online consumer Sentinel Network. This will make it easier for consumers to report instances of US immigration fraud as well as suspected fraud. Any immigrant will be able to access the database from any computer in order to file a complaint. Law enforcement as well as other immigrants will be able to see reports of potential immigration scams on the network. As well, the FTC will now start to share its consumer fraud complaints with the USCIS (the network is already shared with ICE, DOJ, and over two thousands law enforcement agencies across the country). This sharing of information, it is hoped, will help prevent scammers from targeting immigrants with impunity.