Seven percent of Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders have been exposed to immigration scams, according to AARP’s “Facing Fraud: A Survey of AAPIs Age 50-plus on Fraud and Scams.”
Navigating the immigration process in the United States may be a daunting task — whether it’s becoming a citizen or filling out the right paperwork — and immigrants looking for any option may fall prey to certain fraud schemes.
Targets of immigration scams are either unaware of the fraud or mistake, or they go along because they feel they have no other route to obtain their much-needed legal status or work authorization. The fraudsters promise cheap, fast-tracked, or easy paths to work permits and green cards.
When an immigrant is scammed and does not get their needed approvals, they can be removed from the United States and get separated from their families.
In response to this alarming situation, AARP presents “Immigration Fraud Prevention,” a nationwide public service announcement and storytelling initiative in collaboration with NextDayBetter, the Asian American Bar Association of New York, the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York, and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). This series features immigration attorneys providing insights and tips on how Filipino individuals and families can protect themselves against immigration fraud.
Attorney Amanda Bernardo, director at the Filipino American Bar Association of New York and co-chair of the Immigration Committee at the Asian American Bar Association of New York, said “that the immigration process can be confusing and intimidating, especially for Filipinos and Asian immigrants who face language barriers. You need to carefully vet the right immigration attorney, who can lend the right immigration services based on their client’s complex immigration needs.”
Unfortunately, many unqualified individuals and institutions take advantage of the trust of Filipino immigrants, providing ineffective or even harmful representation.
Scammers file the wrong paperwork, use fraudulent measures, or misrepresent facts, which jeopardizes their client’s immigration case. Older AAPIs are particularly vulnerable as targets of certain fraud.
“Con artists often target immigrant communities because they are particularly vulnerable, but knowing how they work can help you spot and avoid scams,” said Daphne Kwok, AARP Vice President of Multicultural Leadership, Asian American and Pacific Islander Audience Strategy. “The focus of our fraud initiative is to provide the community the tools they need to outsmart con artists before they strike.”
Some tips on how to protect yourself from immigration fraud include:
- Work only with people who are authorized by the government to help you.
- Real government website URLs should have .gov domains.
- Always verify the person’s credentials. You should call the appropriate government agency and confirm that whoever has contacted you is a legitimate representative.
- Don’t let anyone keep your original documents, like your birth certificate or passport.
- Never pay for blank government forms or sign a form that either isn’t filled out yet or that you don’t understand.
- Keep a copy of every form you submit and every letter from the government for your own records.
- Avoid notary publics for legal advice. They are not licensed lawyers and cannot talk to government agencies on your behalf.
“By rallying community organizations across the country, we can better educate and empower Filipino immigrants to legally navigate our immigration system with the right resources and support,” NextDayBetter CEO Ryan Letada said.
For more information, please contact the AARP hotline at 1-877-908-3360, or visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork and the Federal Trade Commission at http://ftc.gov/immigration.