How to detect common immigration scams

A scam or fraud is when someone lies to steal your personal information or money. It is illegal. Unfortunately, scams and fraud are common.

Many scams also give false information about immigration benefits. If you are unsure about specific procedures, contact your local immigration office or legal service provider.    

Payments

Most scams are seeking money. Many ask for payments for immigration fees. Immigration fees and applications are handled through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

USCIS will only accept payments online through your myUSCIS account or by mail through their official lockbox locations. When you are completing an application online, you will be directed to pay the fees at pay.gov.

USCIS will never ask for: 

  • Payment over the phone or by email 
  • Payment through services like Western Union, MoneyGram, PayPal, or gift cards
  • You to transfer money to someone or pay an individual
All USCIS forms are free on USCIS.gov. No one should charge a fee to get a form.

Make sure to get legal advice from individuals and businesses that are legally allowed to practice immigration law. Only an attorney and DOJ-accredited representative are authorized to give legal advice. 

Notarios Publicos

In many Latin American and European countries, notario publicos (notary publics) are licensed attorneys authorized to give legal advice. This is different in the USA. In the United States, notarios administer oaths and witness the signing of important documents. 

Notary publics in the U.S. are not trained or authorized to provide any legal services. Notarios in the United States who are trying to scam you may:

  • Pretend to offer legal services to get your money
  • Offer to submit USCIS applications without the needed knowledge
  • Give false legal advice that creates problems in your immigration case

How to avoid notario scams

Check that you are getting legal advice from a licensed immigration attorney or accredited legal representative. Learn how to find legal providers you can trust.  

Scam websites

An immigration scam website could pretend to offer help filing a USCIS application.

Things to know to avoid scam websites 

  •  Scam websites will sometimes try to look similar to official sites or have odd typos
  • Use the official USCIS.gov website and do not use sites that try to have a similar address like USCIS-online.org
  • Official government websites always end in .gov

Scam emails 

Scam emails are very common.

Things to know to avoid scam emails

  • Look for odd typos, such as in your name and address
  • USCIS does not accept payments via email 
  • All emails from USCIS or the U.S. government will always end in .gov
  • Some fraudulent email accounts still could use .gov, a scam email address to avoid is [email protected]
  • Scams may have a download button linking to fake non-government website
  • USCIS never sends emails telling you the decision on your application
  • Check your USCIS account for updates on your application
Do not click on any links in a suspicious email. Do not respond to a scam email.

Scam calls 

Most people get scam calls. The most common types are about credit cards and taxes but some can be about immigration. These calls can have someone pretending to be an immigration officer. They may ask you for personal information or payment. They may say your information is wrong or that you owe fees and threaten to report you.

Things to know to avoid scam calls

  • Check with USCIS or ICE if you are unsure if a call is real 
  • Search for agency contact information on their webpage
  • Do not call back phone numbers listed in emails, voicemails, or caller ID
  • Contact an immigration attorney or representative if you have questions 

Expedited processing scam 

Sometimes websites and businesses state they can help you “jump the line” in application processing. They may promise to get you an immigration visa, green card, or work permit faster if you pay a fee. They may also say they have contacts in the government to expedite your case. 

Things to know to avoid expedited processing scams

  • No one can expedite services beyond the normal processing time
  • No one can promise that you will get the benefit you are applying for
  • Check USCIS processing times online 

Other immigration scams 

Here is a list of specific immigration scams authorities are sharing with the public.

Afghan personal information scams may ask you to share personal information to help you get immigration benefits. USCIS does not generally send emails informing you that you have been approved for a certain immigration benefit.

Form I-9 email scams have asked employers for Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification information pretending to be USCIS. Employers do not have to submit Form I-9 to USCIS. 

Humanitarian parole scams may target immigrants and sponsors to take advantage of them. Applicants looking for sponsors should verify the identity of the supporter before deciding to work together. Sponsors do not have to pay a fee to submit an application

Human trafficking scams may result from employment scams that involve suspicious job offers sent overseas or by email. Human trafficking includes situations where people are forced to work a job and are unable to leave because of threats, debt, and immigration status. Learn these safety tips for avoiding human trafficking situations.

TPS scams often offer false information about re-registering for TPS. These scams may ask you to submit forms and payments to renew your TPS. It is free to renew. Do not pay for or file any form until USCIS has updated official TPS information online. 

Visa lottery scams may say you have been selected for the Diversity Visa (DV) program. The visa lottery is managed by the Department of State, not USCIS. The State Department will not send you emails about being selected for the visa lottery. The visa lottery is free. You do not have to pay a fee to register for the DV program. 

Report fraud and scams 

Reporting scams can get you help. It can also help make sure that others do not experience the same thing. In most cases, you can report a scam anonymously. You do not have to give your name. It is optional.

Be sure to collect specific information about the fraud or scam: 

  • Date, time, and location of the incident
  • Names and contact information of the individual or business involved
  • Description of the violation 
Report
To
Immigration benefits scams
Immigration scams
Immigration court proceeding scams
Human trafficking scams
suspicious emails, websites or social media accounts that claim to be affiliated with USCIS
General scams
Lost money or property
Fraud
Internet scams
Employer fraud and abuse

Be careful with other false information

There is a lot of false information being shared, especially around the topic of immigration. 

How to avoid false information

  • Pay attention to where your news and information are coming from
  • Be cautious with information you get on social media
  • Check for the original sources within the article or post
  • Read about the author and organization to see if they are reliable
  • Verify the information in another source
False information can sometimes be called disinformation or misinformation. Disinformation, often called fake news, is false information that is intended to influence people’s opinions. Misinformation is incorrect information that was not meant to be misleading. 

The information on this page comes from USCIS, FTC, DOJ, USA.gov, and other trusted sources. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice.