The Scams Continue
October 1, 1999
Make no mistake about it, for every vulnerable person in this world, there is always going to be a predator to take advantage of them, especially in the world of the visa overstay or undocumented alien. Who is doing the scamming? How can it be stopped? How can one avoid being scammed? How can the scammer be held accountable? Based on some of the experiences shared with me by several scam victims or targeted victims, I offer the following thoughts:
Who is doing the scamming? From what I have gathered from victims who have consulted with me, it appears there are at least 1 or 2 Filipinos, between 45-60 years of age, who are preying on unsuspecting northside (of Chicago) Filipinos seeking to improve their immigration status in one way or another.
The scam victim is typically presented with convincing looking and authentic immigration forms and a boastful explanation of the scam artist’s connection and/or inside knowledge of U.S. immigration law. The victim is usually told that by filing these forms some immigration benefit will follow such as the issuance of an employment authorization document or even a Alien Registration Card (“green card”).
One story I heard even involved the registration for some supposed amnesty (complete fiction) that requires an immediate and costly filing. No doubt, the scammers are shamelessly sinking to the lowest of levels, as the victims are being charged fees ranging from $500 to $10,000, not including the purported filing fees.
Despite news of the arrest of 1 or 2 of these scam artists in the past year or so, it appears that the same culprits, and perhaps some yet to be caught veterans, are still at it. And do not be fooled by the traditionally trustworthy forum or context through which you meet the thief, because our disgusting culprits are lining up their prey in church and are being introduced to their victims through the victim’s friends and acquaintances.
After the promised immigration benefit never arrives, the scam artist will blame the result on a change in policy by the U.S. immigration service (“INS”), or more often, they will simply be impossible to reach, e.g. disconnected telephone, ignoring the knocks on the door of disgruntled victims appearing at the scam artists home for an explanation.
How does she get away with it? And just as important, how does she sleep at night after blatantly stealing from the pockets of her own countrymen? The answer to the first question is simple. The victims are understandably afraid and/or embarrassed to come forward. They fear being prosecuted themselves or even deported, and the nice, innocent looking, scam lady knows it.
I know at one point, however, one of our culprits was indeed successfully prosecuted, but unfortunately, she was never forced to serve jail time. She only was required to pay a fine and provide restitution to a complaining witness or two. And if you’re guessing that she came out of it all with a significant profit, you are right. Moreover, and not surprising, this somewhat well publicized prosecution has not deterred our unscrupulous scam artists currently preying the Filipino neighborhood.
How can they be stopped? DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR MONEY.
If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Do not fall for their promises.
In every case I was consulted on, I have been forced to give the victim the sad news that they have been scammed, and that the promised immigration benefit will not be coming. Even worse, though, some of the filings that these thieves are submitting can lead to the victim being placed in removal (deportation) proceedings, although the filing may initially yield the issuance of an employment authorization. Be assured though, if no basis to file the application existed in the first place (such as approved family or employment immigration petition, with current visa availability) the INS’ deportation section will likely catch up with the applicant and he/she will find themselves in proceedings before an immigration judge.
So, I repeat, DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR MONEY.
For those who have been scammed, have been targeted by a scammer, or just plain want to know their immigration law options, see a reputable attorney.
Ask your friend, family member or clergyman for a recommendation, and make sure the attorney is licensed. If there is any doubt, ask to see their license.
For a nominal fee (ranging from $20.00 to $150.00 dollars), the attorney should be able to listen to your problem and tell you what, if any, options exist under the law. If an option exists and you decide to pursue it, make sure the lawyer puts in writing the services he will be performing and the amount you are being charged for this service. IF the lawyer misrepresents himself, fails to perform the services promised, or commits an act against the interest of their client, they can be sued in a court of law. And for acts such as those being committed by our scam artist, they can lose their license to practice law. The scam artist has practically nothing to lose and she knows it. Clearly, a consultation with an honest and reputable attorney is a small price to pay if it will allow one to avoid being scammed for thousands.
Additionally, attorneys are required to keep all conversations with clients in the strictest of confidence. That is, unless otherwise instructed by the client, attorneys must keep secret from the world all information provided by their client, including information relating to their lawful or unlawful immigration status. So whatever gets disclosed to the attorney in their office, will not leave that office.
How can our culprits be held accountable? It will not be easy. Unless we have victims who are ready to step forward and report these scam artists to the authorities, (such as local police) our scammer will be free to roam the neighborhood. Short of more victims stepping forward to complain and press for the scammer to be incarcerated, the next best thing is for the public do their best to be informed and act prudently. This way the culprits’ market will dry up and hopefully, these seemingly nice old ladies will go on to more honorable pursuits.
My final thought: When your scam artist requires cash, and gives you a convoluted explanation (and/or looks at you funny) after you ask for a receipt or a written agreement, think twice.
PUBLISHED October 1, 1999 – “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM”
Copyright © 1999-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois