At the request of the Federal Trade Commission, a federal judge has shut down an operation that allegedly posed as the U.S.
government, then duped consumers into paying feesranging from $200 to $2,500 by claiming the fees would cover processing
by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The court froze the defendants’ assets and appointed a receiver to
take over the business until the case is resolved. The FTC has asked the court to halt the business practices permanently and
order the operation to repay its victims.
The real U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, 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.
According to the FTC, defendants Immigration Center and Immigration Forms and Publications, Inc., 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, the FTC said.