Scams Targeting Foreign Nationals Cause Serious Monetary Damages and Identity Theft Issues

Nov 15, 2013

We would like to raise your awareness about a series of scams that have primarily targeted foreign nationals.

Often the perpetrators will call the victim on the phone from an ID that looks legitimate; this form of scam is called "Caller ID Spoofing'. The impostors are posing as either IRS (Internal Revenue Service) or USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) officials. Their goal is two-fold: to get personal information for use in identity theft and to extort money. They will request personal information such as Social Security numbers, Passport numbers, Alien registration numbers, and Visa control numbers, among others. The victims are told that they would face negative consequences unless they comply with their demand by making payments through the use of pre-loaded debit cards or wire transfer. This sophisticated technique involves the following hallmarks:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's Social Security Number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver's license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
  • Be wary of telephone calls threatening adverse consequences such as deportation from an "official" agent. The USCIS will not call you in such circumstances, nor make threats that involve payments of money. If you have received such a call, you can contact the USCIS directly at 1-800-375-5283.

In addition to this current scam, there are many other recurring deceits that foreign nationals should be wary of including:

1. The "Notario Publico" scams: "Notarios Publicos" are recognized as attorneys in many Spanish speaking countries. However, in the US they don't carry the same privileges. Immigrants from Spanish speaking countries should be aware of "Notarios Publicos" whom purport to provide legal services related to immigration. 

2. Local businesses that claim to be able to expedite Visas, Green Cards and employment authorization documents are misrepresenting themselves as they will not speed up the process and they will charge an inflated fee for such a "service."

3. Refund scams: The refund scam is the most recurrent scam. A bogus e-mail is sent to the taxpayers telling them that they are eligible for a tax refund. To claim the tax refund a consumer must open an attachment or click on a link to complete a claim form, which requires the entry of personal financial information. A tell-tale sign is the use of the term "Last annual calculations of your fiscal activity." Remember that you don't need to claim your refund through a form. The tax return you have filed will determine your refund status. 

4. Beneficial Owner form scams: This is a fax-based phishing scam that resurfaces periodically. It is based on the W-8BEN (Certificate of Foreign status of Beneficial Owner for US Withholding). The scammer will modify the form to request passport numbers, and security information (such as the mother's maiden name). The form also states that the recipient will have to pay additional tax. In fact, the real W-8BEN is completed by banks and not by individuals themselves.


GMT recommends the following actions in light of the recent scams: 

1-       Let all of your US-inbound assignees, friends and colleagues know of these scams (you can forward this email).

2-       Be aware that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. The IRS usually contacts taxpayers through standard USPS mail. If you receive an email that alleges to be from the IRS, do not reply to the email or open any attachments. In addition, do not click on any links. 

3-       If you receive a call from someone claiming to be an IRS Agent, do not provide your Social Security Number, Birth Date or other personal information.  Ask for the agent's name, identification number, and the notice information they are calling about.  Then call 1-800-829-1040 to get in touch with a real IRS employee and find out if the information you were provided was real. 

 4-       Finally, if you receive communications from the INS (Immigration Naturalization Services), they are most certainly fraudulent since that agency was dismantled in 2003 and most of the functions were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security.

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