The FBI, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are warning the public about new fraud schemes that attempt to exploit and prey on relatives of the unaccompanied children who recently entered the United States. The perpetrators of these schemes have demanded payments from family members, claiming the monetary payments will cover processing and travel expenses needed to allow the children to be reunited with their families.
On July 18, 2014, the FBI in San Antonio, Texas, learned of two similar fraud schemes that were carried out by telephone calls to their intended victims (the relatives of the unaccompanied children) located throughout the United States. One fraud scheme involved individuals who claimed to be representing a charitable/non-profit organization, which reportedly assisted in processing and reuniting the children with their families. Another potential scheme may have involved individuals who are believed to have spoofed the phone number of a San Antonio business organization in an attempt to lend credibility to their claim.
Individuals participating in these schemes requested payments ranging from approximately $300 to several thousand dollars. The number of victims and amount of losses is not known at this time.
Anyone who is requested to make payment for fees or expenses related to the processing, travel or reunification of unaccompanied children should view such a request with extreme caution. Anyone with information about the fraud schemes described above should contact their local FBI office.
Fraud schemes described above are not uncommon. In the past, crisis situations and natural disasters have prompted individuals with criminal intent to solicit payments and contributions purportedly for legitimate expenses and charitable organizations and/or good causes.
Therefore, before making a payment or donation of any kind, the public should investigate further, be cautious, and adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:
- Call the official telephone number of the government agency trying to collect the money to ensure the request for payment is legitimate.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials asking for payments or donations door-to-door, via phone, mail, e-mail, or social networking sites.
- Verify the legitimacy of the government agency or non-profit organization by utilizing various Internet-based resources which may confirm the correct phone number, e-mail, and/or the group’s existence and its non-profit status rather than following a link in an e-mail.
- Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.
- Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of intended recipients in attached files which may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
- Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.
- Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who seeks payment or solicits contributions: Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
- Be skeptical of individuals requesting payment or contributions by courier or wire, or those who request your bank account or credit card number.