U.S. government agencies, Federal Trade Comission (FTC), USCIS, IRS and others have guide as to how to avoid scams.
FTC: Four Signs That It’s a Scam
1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.
Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company, a tech company, or even a charity asking for donations.
They use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. So the name and number you see might not be real.
2. Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.
Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information.
Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.
3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.
Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. If you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story.
They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.
4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.
They often insist that you pay by using cryptocurrency, by wiring money through a company like MoneyGram or Western Union, using a payment app, or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the numbers on the back of the card.
Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), then tell you to deposit it and send them money.
FTC: How To Avoid a Scam
Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Honest organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.
If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.
Resist the pressure to act immediately. Honest businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.
Know how scammers tell you to pay. Never pay someone who insists you pay with cryptocurrency, a wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram, a payment app, or a gift card. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.
Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.
Report Scams to the FTC
If you were scammed or think you saw a scam, tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Avoid Immigration Scams
Look out for individuals who pose as USCIS, CBP, IRS officials. Government agencies will only contact you through official government channels and will not contact you through your personal social media accounts (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).
Misleading Offers of Support
Look out for individuals who attempt to contact you online or through your social media accounts to offer to be your supporter or connect you to a supporter in exchange for your information, a fee, or other form of compensation. Supporters should be able to provide financial support to beneficiaries for up to a 2-year period of parole. Beneficiaries are not obligated to repay, reimburse, work for, serve, marry, or otherwise compensate their supporter in exchange for the potential supporter submitting Form I-134A, Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support, on their behalf or for providing financial support while they are in the United States.
Unauthorized Practice of Law
An attorney may be admitted to the bar of any state in the U.S., as a member in good standing, and be eligible to practice immigration law . In order to determine if an attorney meets this criteria, a non-citizen can (1) ask to view a copy of the attorney's bar card or license and (2) contact the state bar association where she believes the attorney is admitted or in the state in which the attorney is practicing to confirm; many state bar associations have an online portal for verifying a lawyer's admission status (https://www.ailalawyer.com). To determine if an accredited representative is eligible to practice, a non-citizen can consult the accredited representative roster, managed by the Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP).
Generally, the practice of law is the application of legal principles and judgment with regard to the circumstances or objectives of another entity or person(s) which require the knowledge and skill of a person trained in the law. This includes but is not limited to:
- Giving advice or counsel to others as to their legal rights or the legal rights or responsibilities of others for fees or other consideration.
- Selection, drafting, or completion of legal documents or agreements which affect the legal rights of an entity or person(s).
- Representation of another entity or person(s) in a court, or in a formal administrative adjudicative proceeding or other formal dispute resolution process or in an administrative adjudicative proceeding in which legal pleadings are filed or a record is established as the basis for judicial review.
- Negotiation of legal rights or responsibilities on behalf of another entity or person(s).
A person shall not practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction, or assist another in doing so. A person who is not admitted to practice in jurisdiction shall not: (1) establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law; or (2) hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice in this jurisdiction."
Penalties and Punishment. The unauthorized practice of law is a Felony crime in many states and can carry penalties for persons found guilty of up to several years in prison while also requiring the person to pay fines and restitution or other conditions subject to the courts ruling.
Point is, do not, do not attempt to practice law or hold yourself out there as an attorney.
False or Misleading Marketing by Lawyers
All lawyers are required to adhere to the rules of legal ethics of the jurisdiction they are admitted or practicing laws. These rules vary state by state, however, American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules provides a general rules and some States have adopted ABA Model Rules.
Rule 7.1 — Communications Concerning a Lawyer’s Services. Lawyers can’t make a false or misleading communication about their services. The rule change adds a definition of false or misleading.
Rule 7.2: Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services: Specific Rules
Share: Information About Legal Services
(a) A lawyer may communicate information regarding the lawyer’s services through any media.
(b) A lawyer shall not compensate, give or promise anything of value to a person for recommending the lawyer’s services except that a lawyer may:
(1) pay the reasonable costs of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule;
(2) pay the usual charges of a legal service plan or a not-for-profit or qualified lawyer referral service;
(3) pay for a law practice in accordance with Rule 1.17;
(4) refer clients to another lawyer or a nonlawyer professional pursuant to an agreement not otherwise prohibited under these Rules that provides for the other person to refer clients or customers to the lawyer, if:
(i) the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive; and
(ii) the client is informed of the existence and nature of the agreement; and
(5) give nominal gifts as an expression of appreciation that are neither intended nor reasonably expected to be a form of compensation for recommending a lawyer’s services.
(c) A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless:
(1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate authority of the state or the District of Columbia or a U.S. Territory or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and
(2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.
(d) Any communication made under this Rule must include the name and contact information of at least one lawyer or law firm responsible for its content.
Scams Targeting Potential Participants in Uniting for Ukraine
USCIS began accepting applications under Uniting for Ukraine in April 2022. USCIS has received reports of email phishing scams targeting potential participants in Uniting for Ukraine. The scams are urging supporters to pay a fee before USCIS reviews their Form I-134A, Online Request to be a Supporter and Declaration of Financial Support. Find more information on potential exploitation and abuse in the Understand Your Rights (PDF) guide. Scams Targeting Potential Participants in Uniting for Ukraine
USCIS does not charge a fee for the filing of a Form I-134A.
Beware of denial letters with typos and other signs of not being official USCIS correspondence.
Scams Targeting the Processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelan Nationals and their Immediate Family Members
Please note that beneficiaries under the processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans are not obligated to repay, reimburse, work for, serve, marry, or otherwise compensate their supporter in exchange for the supporter filing Form I-134A, on their behalf or for providing financial support while they are in the United States.
Access to these processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans is free. Neither the supporter nor the beneficiary is required to pay the U.S. government a fee for any part of this process. Beware of any scams or potential exploitation by anyone who asks for money associated with applying under this process. DHS recommends the following actions:
- Avoid individuals who promise to “get you to the United States quickly” if you pay a large sum of money;
- Keep your passport and other identity documents in your possession at all times; and
- If you are concerned that the individual who filed Form I-134A on your behalf is not a legitimate organization or entity or legal representative, see our Scams, Fraud, and Misconduct webpage.
See more information about the Processes for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans.
Anyone who is forced or coerced, through fear or lies, to perform labor, services, or sexual acts, is a victim of human trafficking. If you have seen or experienced this type of abuse, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888. Learn more about human trafficking through the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign.
Afghan Personal Information Scam
Beware of individuals asking for personal information. Our Information for Afghan Nationals webpage offers complete information on what you need to do as a parolee. When reviewing an email, always remember:
- USCIS does not routinely send emails to inform you that we have approved you for a diversity visa, immigrant visa, nonimmigrant visa, or any other type of immigration benefit, except in certain situations; for example, USCIS may email you from a uscis.gov email address to prompt you to update your physical address.
- Email addresses from the U.S. government always end in (.gov). Always check the sender information to make sure it ends in (.gov);
- At the top of all USCIS websites, there is a message and image of a U.S. flag to let you know the website is an official government website; and
- Identity theft can occur if your personal information such as Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or social security card is delivered to an old or incorrect address. If you did not receive an EAD that USCIS mailed, submit an inquiry on non-delivery of a card. If you suspect you have been a victim of social security fraud, visit the Social Security: Fraud Prevention and Reporting | SSA website.
USCIS will never ask you to transfer money to an individual or pay fees other than through your myUSCIS account. You can verify the myUSCIS account is an official USCIS government account because the web address will end in “.gov.” Read the Payments by Phone or Email section below.
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