Update: Phone Scams Targeting Refugees

The phone calls come from a Washington, DC telephone number, the caller identifying himself from Bank of America, or the IRS, or some other federal agency. The refugees receiving the calls are told that they are eligible for ten or even twenty thousand dollars in federal grant money--all theirs once they send a few hundred dollars by wire transfer to cover "processing fees"--or better yet, just send their bank account information so the funds can be deposited directly.

Of course, it is all a scam--one that has targeted newly-arrived refugees, mostly Bhutanese, and bilked dozens of people out of thousands of dollars.   

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is following these scam attempts, and encourages anyone contacted with similar scams to report them through the FTC website. Their recently published Consumer Alert provides valuable tips on how to avoid being victimized, and what to do in case you are contacted.  They have also set up a new web page, Avoiding Scams Against Immigrants, with information and materials in several languages. 

FTC Consumer Alert
Federal Trade Commission  

How to Avoid the Scam
Unfortunately, people are getting hurt by this scam: some refugees are losing thousands of dollars. How can you avoid scams like this? 

  • Don't give important personal information - or money - to someone you don't know or to someone who contacts you unexpectedly.
  • Remember that the U.S. government does not charge security deposits or processing fees when it gives financial grants. 
  • If you are a refugee and get a call like this, talk to the case manager at your resettlement agency immediately. Then report it to the Federal Trade Commission online or at 1-877-FTC-HELP

The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them.   

Resettled refugees are once again advised to consult with their local resettlement agencies if someone claiming to represent the government contacts them, especially if there are promises of cash or prizes.  

Please help the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) spread the warning about these scams, and stop others from being victimized by these criminals.