On April 26, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released an important alert titled “Scam Alert: DHS OIG Hotline Telephone Number Used in Scam to Obtain Personal Information” [link]. The USCIS issued the alert to provide additional information concerning a fraud alert that was issued on April 19, 2017, by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) [PDF version]. In this post, I will detail the warnings issued by the DHS OIG and the USCIS.
The DHS OIG fraud alert warned the public about a telephone scam where scammers have altered their caller ID to make it appear that they were calling from the DHS OIG hotline (1-800-323-8603) and identified themselves to unsuspecting individuals as “U.S. Immigration” employees. These scammers then demand that individuals provide or “verify” personally identifiable information. In many cases, the scammers seek this information under the false pretense that the individual was a victim of identity theft.
DHS OIG Alert
The DHS OIG reminded the public that the DHS OIG never uses its hotline number to make outgoing calls. Accordingly, any call purporting to be from the DHS OIG hotline number, 1-800-323-8603, is a scam. If an individual receives a phone call from this number, it is best to not answer the phone.. If an individual accidentally answers a call from this number, he or she should never provide personal information, and should hang up upon being asked for any such information.
Despite the spoofing scam, the DHS assured the public that “[i]t continues to be perfectly safe to use the DHS OIG hotline to report fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement within DHS components or programs.”
The DHS OIG encourages victims of this telephone spoofing scam to call the DHS OIG hotline or file a complaint at www.oig.dhs.gov. Victims may also contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint and/or to report identify theft.
The USCIS warns individuals to hang up immediately if they receive a call purporting to be from an immigration agency “demanding personal information or payment.” In order to verify whether a call is actually coming from the USCIS, an individual may:
- Call the USCIS's National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 in order to ask if any action is needed on a particular case or immigration status;
- Make an InfoPass appointment at http://infopass.uscis.gov; or
- Use myUSCIS to find up-to-date information about a specific case.
The USCIS issued a reminder that USCIS officials will never threaten an individual or ask for payment over the phone or email. The USCIS sends letters on official stationary to request payments. Accordingly, an individual should never provide a payment over the phone to anyone falsely purporting to be a USCIS official. The USCIS further encouraged individuals to never provide details about an immigration case in a public area.
The USCIS encourages individuals who receive a scam email or phone call to report it to the Federal Trade Commission at http://1.usa.gov/1suOHSS. If an individual receives a suspicious email purporting to be from the USCIS, he or she may forward the suspicious email to the USCIS webmaster at the firstname.lastname@example.org address. The USCIS will review the suspicious email and share it with law enforcement if appropriate.
The USCIS provides additional resources for avoiding scams at www.uscis.gove/avoid-scams.
Scammers often target the most vulnerable, and those who purport to be immigration officials in order to steal personal information are no exception. The scam alerts highlight that individuals should be careful and alert of the ongoing spoofing scam involving the DHS OIG phone number.