By: Richard Hanus
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Scam Alert: DHS Telephone Numbers Used to Extort Money and Obtain Personally Identifiable Information from Unsuspecting Victims
Published March 7, 2019
SIn the past week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a warning to the public with regard to the use of DHS telephone numbers to reach out and scam an unsuspecting public across the U.S. The scam, known as “spoofing”, involves a deliberate falsification of information transmitted to a caller ID display to mask the callers true identity.
The scammers present themselves as calling on behalf of “U.S. Immigration” or other U.S. government agencies. The scam is carried off with the manipulation of caller ID systems such that the telephone number displayed on the receiving side’s phone is coming from the “DHS HQ Operator” number (202-282-8000) or the “DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL)” number (202-401-1474). In furtherance of their scam, the perpetrators obtain or verify certain identifiable information from their victims through a variety of tactics, such as informing their prey that they are the victims of identity theft. The perpetrators also have been known to present themselves as law enforcement or immigration officials and threaten their victims with arrest unless payments are made to the scammers via specified avenues. Interestingly, it has been widely reported that many of those carrying out the scheme have distinguishing accents.
Additionally, the schemers have reportedly been emailing victims from email addresses ending in “uscis.org.” – thereby giving the impression, like with the phone calls, that the message is originating from an official government agency.
In its press release, DHS OIG acknowledged the seriousness of this scam, that it is being investigated, and that the public should be on notice that DHS never uses its HQ Operator or CRCL number in making outgoing calls of this type. Individuals receiving these kinds of emails or scam phone calls from these numbers are reminded not to provide any of the requested personal or other information and are urged to report such incidents by calling the actual DHS OIG Hotline (1-800-323-8603) or file a complaint online by way of the DHS OIG website www.oig.dhs.gov. In addition, victims or intended victims can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
On the subject of scams, the community of undocumented individuals continues to be one of the most vulnerable when it comes to immigration related scams in general. Living in fear can lead the prospective victim to believe just about anything, whether it’s a scam phone call, or a fantasy strategy to legalize their immigration status. When confronted with a version of any of these types of scams, the intended victim is advised to keep calm and get the advice of an objective, honest audience, preferably a trusted friend and reputable attorney. Such a step can save the intended victim from needless stress and perhaps from losing their life-savings.
PUBLISHED March 7, 2019– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2019, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois