Scam artists thrive in times of uncertainty, and these are uncertain times. If you have no valid immigration status or are trying to obtain one, you may feel even more uncertainty. You must not, however, fall victim to an immigration-related scam.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services maintains a list of known scams. While reading through this list may help you avoid some common cons, you can also ask some questions to detect a scam. Here are a few relevant ones:
Do I have to send money?
Many immigration petitions and applications require individuals to pay filing or processing fees. You may also have to pay a bond if you are in removal proceedings. Still, government agencies have precise instructions for sending money. Importantly, the government never asks you to wire money or send gift cards. Additionally, the checks or money orders you send must be payable to the government agency.
Is the communication from a reliable source?
When you receive any communication regarding your immigration matter, you should be skeptical of its authenticity. Always look at the return address and letterhead. Also, check for spelling and grammatical errors. If you are not certain about the legitimacy of the correspondence, ask an attorney or another trusted individual to help you verify it.
Has someone made a promise to you?
With scams, information is often too good to be true. If someone promises you a specific result, you are likely dealing with a con artist. This is especially true if you must pay money in exchange for a guaranteed immigration benefit. Furthermore, if someone threatens to take adverse action against you unless you pay money, you are likely encountering a scam. Remember, you have rights, and legitimate government officials must comply with the law.
While the U.S. immigration system can be confusing, you do not want to do anything to make your situation worse. Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals may think you are an easy target. With some diligence, though, you can likely protect yourself from an immigration-related scam.