Officials in Australia and the United States are warning expats to be aware of scams that offer to help them with their visa admin and demand extra payments for doing so. In Australia the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) said that there have been reports of individuals impersonating departmental officers seeking payment to fix ‘visa irregularities’.
The phone scammers are targeting international communities in Australia , including Indian nationals holding temporary resident visas. Students from overseas and subclass 457 visa holders in the information and communications technology industry are also being targeted. A DIAC spokesman said it was a well organised ruse to con visa holders into transferring a purported ‘penalty payment’ offshore when none is needed.
‘DIAC has received information from a number of Indian clients who have been contacted by people claiming to be from immigration-related agencies. Conmen claiming to be from fabricated immigration or border security agencies tell targets their visa details are out of date, specifying an identification number,’ he explained. ‘The caller asks them to confirm their identification details then requests an immediate penalty payment to an offshore address, or else their visa will be cancelled and they could be jailed. Anyone phoned by people seeking such payments should refuse to pay, tell the caller you are aware of their scam, that you will be reporting the matter to police, and then hang up,’ he added.
Quote from ExpatForum.com : "Please be very careful when using such fee based sites. As I posted before - a number of skillful scams have been trace back to them especially in IT."
In the US officials said that there are many people offering help with immigration services and not all are authorised to do so. ‘While many of these unauthorised practitioners mean well, all too many of them are out to rip you off. This is against the law and may be considered an immigration service scam,’ said a spokesman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). ‘If you need help filing an application or petition with USCIS, be sure to seek assistance from the right place, and from people that are authorized to help. Going to the wrong place can delay your application, cost you unnecessary fees and possibly lead to removal proceedings,’ the spokesman explained.
The organisation has launched the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL) Initiative to help people avoid immigration scams. ‘USCIS wants to combat immigration service scams by equipping applicants, legal service providers and community based organisations with the knowledge and tools they need to detect and protect themselves from dishonest practices,’ added the spokesman.
Advice available includes what you need to know about filing applications, a list of common immigration scams, state by state information, finding legal help and where to find a legal immigration service provider.