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What to look for to avoid scam artists

Typically the first thing on an immigrant's mind when they come to the United States is earning a living so that they can send money home to their families. However, in immigrants' haste to start making money quickly, they should pursue their endeavors with caution, as they may happen upon scam artists looking to prey upon unsuspecting victims.

To help immigrants discern what are legitimate operations and what may be fraudulent ones, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services offers a few pointers.

Because scammers know that the USCIS is the governing body that grants visas, green cards and employment authorization documents, some claim that by filing with them, immigrants can avoid the fees and wait periods they may encounter with the government entity. USCIS says immigrants should be very wary of these claims, as they are generally untrue.

While some scammers encourage immigrants to avoid the USCIS, others claim to be the USCIS by offering official-looking documents and web pages. A good indication the immigration service provider in question is fraudulent is if they offer downloadable forms and instructions for a price. USCIS says all forms it offers are free to download and have detailed information on filing fees and processing times.

Another way scam artists try to fool immigrants is by claiming they are government agencies that were once in operation but are no longer. For instance, the Immigration and Naturalization Service used to be the government body that oversaw immigration policies and benefits. But that body was dissolved in March 2003. The USCIS was put in its place, which is governed by the Department of Homeland Security. The INS was under the Department of Justice.

Therefore, if websites or purported immigration service providers claims to be the INS – or refer immigrants to them – it's a good bet they're scammers.

Fortunately, every state in the U.S. has resources immigrants can turn to if they've been victimized by a scam. These can be found here.

The Better Business Bureau is another organization immigrants can turn to for reporting a scam or to determining whether a business is legitimate. Immigrants can familiarize themselves with the site by visiting here.

Helpful links:

Better Business Bureau – Reporting scams

U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services – Avoiding scams

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