The United States Embassy in Port au Prince, Haiti is warning that there is a new advance fee fraud scheme targeting Haitians and Haitian Americans. Haitians, and Americans who are sponsoring their Haitian relatives, are being asked to pay fees up front in exchange for a guarantee that they can bring up to five of their relatives to the United States under a special program. Sometimes these scammers operate by telephone, email or by having criminals hand out flyers in neighborhoods where Haitian Americans live requesting that money be wired to Western Union account or similar service in exchange for an “authorization code” that they can use to fly to Haiti and sponsor five of their relatives to come to the United States.
As it states on the Department of State website: “Anyone who receives a phone, letter or email request asking for such an advance payment should consider the request to be fraudulent. Do NOT transfer any monies to an unknown person! Several Haitians and Haitian-Americans have already lost thousands of dollars because of these dishonest acts. If you have been contacted about one of these advance payments or know of someone who has, please contact the Consulate at 222-0200, x8684 or via email to PAPrso@state.gov or PAPfraud@state.gov.”
No U.S. Consular Official or U.S.C.I.S. Official will ever legitimately ask you for money outside of their official function except fees that are to be paid to an official cashier. All fees are collected either by check or money order through the mail to a U.S.C.I.S. Service Center or by cash at a Local Office. Cash is only collected at a Cashier’s Office within a U.S.C.I.S. or State Department government facility (some take credit cards such as the Cashier at 26 Federal Plaza) or by cash at a U.S. Embassy Consular Section Cashier that is clearly marked. One should never give cash to anyone in or outside a U.S. Embassy or Consulate who says they are a US government employee or consular staff.
Generally these types of scams are called “advance fee scams” where you are promised to receive something you need or want (money is usually the reward, though I have been involved in cases where the desired object is a visa or even citizenship in some country). You are asked to pay some money “up front” to cover costs, legal fees, etc. but what usually happens is that after you pay the fees you discover that the addresses, phone numbers or other information given to you are incorrect and that anything you are given, such as visas or bank checks are fraudulent and worthless. If you wire the money through one of these services, generally speaking the service cannot get your money back. This is also true if you wire money to a bank account, unless you can hire a lawyer in a jurisdiction where the account is located and your lawyer can convince a judge to freeze the account (something I have done in the past) before it is withdrawn or transferred out of that bank, you money will be lost forever. This is a common scam over the internet these days. Please be careful before giving or sending money to anyone whose credentials you have not verified independently.
If you want information on the United States immigration benefits that are available to Haitians please read our other blog posts covering this subject regarding TPS for Haitians in the United States on January 12, 2010 and other temporary immigration benefits that are being granted at this time to Haitians due to the terrible calamity that has befallen the Republic of Haiti.