A company has been ordered to cease operations and is being asked to reimburse customers it duped into paying into an immigration scam. The FTC is bringing the charges against a company that posed as a government agency, making promises to clients it couldn’t keep, all while banking their cash.
The case gives broadcasters a window on a scam type that could possibly attempt to use a broadcast website, or even attempt to buy spots on the air, to harvest new victims.
The defendants the FCC is going after are Immigration Center and Immigration Forms and Publications, Inc. the FTC says they “set up websites that mimic official government sites, and then used the fake sites to steer immigrants to their deceptive telemarketing operation. The websites depicted American eagles, the U.S. flag, and the Statue of Liberty and had URLs such as www.uscis-ins.us and www.usgovernmenthelpline.com. The sites directed consumers to call a toll-free number that an automated voice answered, ‘Immigration Center.’ Consumers were then transferred to a live person who answered, “USCIS or “U.S. Immigration Center,” and identified him or herself as an ‘agent,’ ‘immigration officer,’ or ‘caseworker.’ The sites also offered counseling and application forms. The counseling was done by telemarketers who did not meet legal requirements to provide immigration services.”
Victims were charged anywhere from $200 to $2.5K.
The actual US agency the clients needed to get in touch with was the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security. According to FTC, it “offers advice and counseling to immigrants in the United States and people seeking to immigrate to the United States. USCIS provides application forms for such benefits as green card renewal, work visas, and applications for asylum. The application forms are free but can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to process.”
The defendants are charged with “misrepresenting: that they were authorized to provide immigration and naturalization services; that they were affiliated with the U.S. government; and that the fees paid by consumers would cover all the costs associated with submitting immigration documents to the USCIS.”