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DHS watchdog group warns of scam calls from fake immigration officers

The watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning this week, urging members of the public to be on the lookout for scam calls from fake immigration officers.

The Office of Inspector General says it receives hundreds of reports every year of people impersonating immigration officers to extort from immigrants and other members of the public with ties abroad — even spoofing real DHS phone numbers and emails with images of altered credentials.

In recent reports, victims were told they’ve broken immigration laws, that their passports have been used abroad to commit crimes, or that there are other issues with their immigration paperwork. They are told they face arrest, visa cancellation or deportation if they don’t hand over personal information or money.

The OIG says DHS agents never ask for a fine to be paid over the phone and don't accept payments through gift cards or transfer services like Venmo and Zelle. It says agents also don’t call people from the publicly-listed numbers on their website for such immigration issues — and these are warning signs of a scam.

The alert said people could report scams through the Office of Inspector General Hotline at 800-323-8603. A spokesperson said the hotline is where most reports are made.  

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.