In recent years, we at Nankin & Verma PLLC have seen an increase in scams where people purporting to be officials at the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) are calling or emailing individuals and seeking payment of some sort of “fine,” usually between $1,000.00 and $10,000.00. They scare people into thinking they will be arrested or deported if they do not agree to immediately pay the “fine” then proceed to provide instructions on how to pay. These instructions generally require the individual to purchase gift cards or wire transfers to send to the scamming criminals. Once people send money this way, the police cannot track it or get it back.
Having spoken to a police officer after one such incident recently victimized a Nankin & Verma PLLC client, we have learned that often, these criminals are working from a different city, or even a different country, and are using disposable cell phones when calling their victims. In addition, they are savvy enough to manipulate what you see on your Caller ID, and can make their numbers appear as “USCIS,” “IRS,” or even “911.” These people are not actually working for or on behalf of the government, but they know how to make you think they are.
In response to the ever increasing numbers of people who have fallen victim to these scams, the USCIS has recently issued an Alert to confirm that they will NEVER ask for money on the phone or via email, and will always send any such communications via mail.
To review the Alert, and the related information about what to do if you have fallen victim to these scams, please click here: https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/avoid-payment-scams-uscis-does-not-accept-fees-phone-or-email
Remember, you should never share any personal information such as names of family members, addresses, social security numbers, and/or bank account numbers, with people on the phone or via email, unless you made the call yourself and you know who you are talking to. If you are contacted by anyone who you believe is trying to scam you, ask them to send whatever information they have to the address they have on file for you (you can ask them to confirm it, but don’t give it to them), and that you will review it before responding. Chances are, you will never be contacted via mail, and you will avoid losing your hard earned money.