Targeting Vulnerable Populations: Immigrants Victimized by Scammers

August 2, 2018

By: Emily Djabi, Community Outreach Coordinator

“You will be taken under custody of the local cops, as there are four serious allegations pressed on your name at this moment.  We would request you to get back to us so that we can discuss about this case before taking any legal action against you. The number to reach us is…”

Not too long ago, my husband received the above voicemail message.  We had a good laugh, immediately recognizing it as one of the many scam phone calls my husband, an immigrant, has received over the years.

As we continued chat, the situation reminded me of a time in which a one of my former ESL students, showed me an email with a similar message, this time from “USCIS”.  She asked me if there was anything else besides the payment that she could do to prevent her visa status from changing and subsequently being deported; she had already made the transfer.   What she hadn’t realized before wiring the money was that this, much like the voicemails my husband receives, was yet another scam specifically targeting immigrants to steal their money or even their identity.

For documented and undocumented immigrants, receiving a call or email from USCIS, the IRS, or any branch of law enforcement can be an unsettling experience.  Scammers hoping to capitalize on deportation fears frequently take advantage of immigrant groups, targeting both those with documentation and those without. The likelihood of someone such as my former student falling for the scam can be heightened by their level of familiarity with proper procedure and process in the U.S.  Those that are unfamiliar with procedures and processes in the U.S. are even more likely to fall victim to scare tactics such as threats of deportation, their driver’s license being revoked, or being arrested for some made up offense.

In such situations, it is important to remember that neither USCIS nor the IRS will ask for payment or personal information over the phone.  Per the agencies’ websites, if requesting payment or personal information, each will send written notifications or requests through U.S. mail.  

The bottom line: Never share personal information via phone or email, and never send money if requested over the phone by a “government agency”.

Have you received such scam phone calls, but don’t know what to do?

If you have received a scam call claiming to be the IRS, click here for more information.

If you have received a scam call claiming to be USCIS, click here for more information.