How to avoid the most common immigration scams

Trusting the wrong people can cause big problems, especially when it comes to your immigration processes.
Learn about the most common immigration scams like notarios, visa lottery scams, fake websites, TPS, and refugee scams. Also, what to do if you have been a victim of fraud.


Immigration Scams

Notarios

Many immigrants look for ‘notarios’ to help them with their immigration cases and legal matters and, in some cases, falling victims of immigration fraud. 

Notary publics are attorneys with special certifications to provide legal advice and assistance in some Latin American countries. In the United States, it’s different. 

According to the National Notary Association, a notary “serves the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents.”

Scammers and other unethical individuals take advantage of the confusion around the definition of “notarios” to offer legal services, manipulate information, and scam clients.

To learn more about what is a notary public you can visit this link.
To avoid notary public scams, look for attorneys and accredited representatives recognized by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Visa Lottery scams

The Diversity Visa Immigrant Program, known as the “Visa Lottery,” is used by immigration scammers to ask for money in return for opportunities to enter the visa lottery, win a visa, get results, and other false promises.
Only the U.S. Department of State manages the “Visa Lottery.” You can only enter the free program once a year by visiting this website. All winners are selected at random from qualifying countries.

Fake websites

It is easy to mistake a fake website for a legitimate source of information.  

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that fake websites use images with the American flag, the Statue of Liberty, and names like ‘U.S. Immigration’ to confuse people into believing they are associated with the government and USCIS.

Other sites ask for payments to download USCIS forms when those forms are always free.
Remember, if a page doesn’t end in .gov is not a government website. According to the FTC, entering those websites puts you at risk of getting your personal information stolen.

TPS scams

Be aware of scammers asking for payment for the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) forms and for submitting renewal of your TPS. 
USCIS forms are always free, be careful with who you share your personal information.

Do not send payments or submit forms until the immigration authorities announce official TPS information.

Learn more about the latest updates for all TPS programs and find resources about your country’s TPS.

Jump the line

Some websites and fraudulent people ask you for money, so you ‘jump the line’ and your immigration process gets expedited, you get a visa, get approved for a green card, or get a certificate approved faster. 

USCIS follows regular processing time, and no one can obtain an expedited process. There are no exceptions.

Refugee Scams

Many refugees fall victim to immigration scams from people who ask for payment to receive government help. In this common scam, people impersonating IRS agents demand information like a bank account number to deposit money.

Remember, the USA government does not call, text or email to ask for your bank account information. 

If you receive this type of call, contact your resettlement agency immediately.
Requiring you to make a payment through money transfers, gift cards, and cryptocurrencies to help your immigration cases are also a scam.

Payments

If you receive calls or emails soliciting payments for USCIS fees, it is a fraud. USCIS does not ask for money transfers, gift cards, or payments over the phone or email. 

USCIS does not accept payments through services like Western Union, MoneyGram, or PayPal.
You can make some immigration payments online through your USCIS online account and pay.gov. To learn more, you can visit our how to calculate and pay USCIS fees page.

Have you been a victim of fraud?

If you believe you have been a victim of immigration fraud or an immigration scam, report it to your local authorities. 

You can report it to USCIS by filling out the form at this link.
And, you can also report fraud and scams to the Federal Trade Commission.

Information on this page comes from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the United States Department of Justice (DOJ)the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 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. If you are looking for a free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, we can help you find free and low-cost legal services.