BBB Warns Consumers of Businesses Misrepresenting Themselves as Government Agencies, Charging for Free Servicesby Nick LaFleur on Aug. 11, 2011, under alert, Life, phishing, scam, Tips
Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is warning consumers to beware of websites and businesses claiming to provide assistance with immigration services. BBB recently became aware of an increase in operations claiming to provide passport, citizenship and immigration services, in particular the website www.usaimmigrationsupport.com.
In July alone, BBB received 32 complaints filed by consumers which eclipses all other months this year. BBB has a total of 46 complaints since January 2011 when consumers began contacting the BBB in earnest with their concerns. In 24 of those complaints, consumers allege US Immigration Organization, the business that operates the website www.usaimmigrationsupport.com, misrepresented itself as a government entity.
“Immigrants who may speak little to no English can easily fall prey to unscrupulous businesses” said Kim States, BBB President. “Businesses are willing to take advantage of anything from a language barrier to someone who is short on time, and scam innocent people out of their money.”
“Consumers have spent anywhere from $75 to hundreds of dollars on these services, thinking they were receiving official assistance with their passport, visa, and naturalization applications”, States noted. “In return, they received only the applications that are free and easily accessible through the federal government.”
“It is very important for people to fully read and understand any website and its disclaimers before doing businesses on it,” she said. “This is particularly necessary when a person is seeking assistance involving personal identification or government programs. There are operations whose intent is to deceive people into thinking the business is something it is not, so people send money and the business also gains access to information about their identities.
Joe Moffa of Oakbrook, Ill., found US Immigration Organization during a search online. He says, “The site looked official; I thought it was a government site. I filled out the form and it asked for $149. I supplied my checking account number and bank routing number. The form said I would get something in a week or two. I did not get anything but when I got my bank statement it showed they had taken the $149 from my account. I tried to call them but could not get through to anyone.”
In the wake of similar activities around the country, the Federal Trade Commission has created multi-lingual educational materials for consumers. These tools can help educate consumers to avoid immigration scams and provide the means to file FTC complaints and report suspected scams or fraud.
BBB offers tips to individuals looking to obtain legal status in the U.S. while avoiding common scams:
- Never sign blank documents that may contain inaccurate information
- Always retain your original documents and only provide photocopies if necessary.
- Do not make online payments or send money to someone who is not a licensed attorney.
- Make copies of every document you prepare, submit and keep for your own records.
- Request a receipt as proof of payment.
- Check the Arizona Bar Association (or the bar association for your state) for licensed attorneys who provide immigration services.
For more advice on fighting fraud and finding businesses and organizations you can trust, visit www.tucson.bbb.org.