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  • April 2013: scam call to foreign students

    We at the ISSO received the following letter from our professional organization April 2013

    Good morning, Region X:

    The NAFSA ISS-Regulatory Practice committee has alerted USCIS about a scam call to foreign students which was shared on the NAFSA ISTA network forum. USCIS has confirmed that its Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate and the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice are now aware of the latest scam we've been hearing about. They have asked that we continue to report all contacts/incidents through the USCIS web site (information below), and pass this information along so that students are aware of this scam.

    The latest scam as reported on the ISTA Network: International Student Advising Forum:

    Indira Dingledine just posted at ISTA Network : International Student Advising Forum : SCAM CALL TO FOREIGN STUDENTS REGARDING OPT.

    Please share: Thanks to David B. Austell, Ph.D. Assistant Vice President and Director NYU Office of Global Services, and Associate Professor of International Education who wrote.

    I'm writing to make you aware of a very sophisticated scam which has surfaced in the eastern United States targeting international students.

    This week, an international student in New York City received a phone call from someone claiming to be from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS/USDHS). The phone number matched the USCIS toll-free number. The caller claimed that on a recent trip abroad, the student had not filled out his I-94 card correctly and USCIS caught the error on the student's pending OPT application.

    The caller had the student's name, date of birth, address, phone number, and could confirm the last 4 digits of his I-94 number. The caller told the student that he needed to leave the United States immediately because a criminal case was pending against him.

    When the student said he could not travel abroad currently, the caller said that "USCIS" could help him but only if he took action and sent money within the next two hours. The student was told that if he did not send money immediately, he would be deported within 24 hours. The student told the caller that he needed to call his International Students and Scholars Office to verify, but the caller said that if he hung up or even put the caller on hold, "USCIS" could not help him. The caller also told him that "USCIS" had already sent a court summons to his home address abroad but there had been no response.

    The caller then gave the student detailed instructions on how to send money via Western Union from a nearby RiteAid. The caller also told him that in order to fix the I-94 problem, he would need to pay additional money for a temporary A#, which he would then need to take to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at JFK Airport where the student would be assisted further.

    Unfortunately, the panicked student fell for the scam and ended up sending over $1,600 to "USCIS."

    Information from USCIS:

    "Where to Report Immigration Scams:"

    USCIS wants to combat immigration services scams by equipping applicants, legal service providers and community-based organizations with the knowledge and tools they need to detect and protect themselves from dishonest practices.

    To accomplish this goal, USCIS launched the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL) Initiative. As part of the effort, we've partnered with several government agencies to identify resources that can help you avoid immigration services scams and provide reporting mechanisms when you are a victim of immigration scams.

    If you been a victim of an immigration services scam or know of a scam that you wish to report, you can go to the USCIS Avoid Scams website.

    When you go to the USCIS Avoid Scams webpage under the "Report Immigration Scams" tab we've included information on where to report scams in your state as well as links to the laws that protect you as a consumer. You can always report scams directly to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to be tracked in Consumer Sentinel.

    Remember reporting scams will not affect your immigration application or petition. Also, many states allow you to report scams anonymously. Please help stop the unauthorized practice of immigration law by standing up to scammers and reporting them."

    There's more at the USCIS website here.

    Thank you,

    Lucy

    Lucy G. Cheung, Esq. NAFSA Region X - Regbud for Scholar Issues Associate Attorney Law Offices of Eugene Goldstein & Associates 150 Broadway Suite 1115 New York, NY 10038