To this end, the Federal Trade Commission reports that scammers pretending to be from the federal government are scaring international students into paying them money. The callers typically know the foreign student’s immigration status and the school or program the student is attending. The pretend government official will say there’s a problem with the student’s immigration documents or visa renewal and then will demand immediate payment, often thousands of dollars, for a fee or bogus immigration bond. These callers make threats, including arrest or deportation, if the students do not pay and ask to be paid in cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin or gift cards, like Google Play or iTunes).
The FTC warns that these are scam calls. The federal government do not make such calls, do not make such threats and do not ask for such payments. If you’re concerned about your visa or immigration documentation, call USCIS’s National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 or go to ftc.gov/complaint (http://ftc/complaint) if a scammer has contacted you or someone you know.
Additional Consumer Tips for Immigrants
Safe and affordable savings and checking accounts:
- NYC Direct Deposit: Open a free checking account to directly deposit your paycheck. This account has no monthly fees, no overdraft option for debit card purchases or ATM withdrawals, no or low minimum balance requirements, free online banking and bill pay and free in-network ATM withdrawals.
- NYC SafeStart Account: This account has no overdraft fees, no monthly fees if you meet the required minimum balance which is $25 or less depending on the bank and ATM or debit cards are available. Go to https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/index.page or contact 311 for more information about these accounts.
- Monthly maintenance fees of $3 of less
- Free use of in-network ATM’s
- No fees to use your debit card
- No overdraft option for debit card purchases or ATM withdrawals
- Low opening deposit and monthly minimum balance ($25 or less)
- Free options for checking account status (online, phone, text or ATM)
- No monthly fees for ordinary transactions (ATM use, direct deposit etc.)
- Money Transfers: Money Transfer Agents are not always the cheapest option, so compare prices. Research prices, fees and exchange rates across financial institutions, money transfer companies and online transfer services to find the best way to send money back home including how and where your family will receive the money.
- Rent-to-own businesses: Avoid using these businesses to buy household items. Customers who rent items long enough to own them pay a 70% annual percentage rate (APR) over the listed cash price. Shop around for the best deal!
- Pre-paid Debit cards: A pre-paid debit card may help but be aware of hidden fees and these cards do not build your credit.
- Payday loans: Pay Day loans are illegal in New York!!! Payday loans are short- term loans usually due and payable on your next payday and are offered at very high interest rates and fees. Interest rates can skyrocket up to 400%. If you receive an offer for a payday loan, please report it to the New York State Department of Financial Services by calling 800-342-3736 or visiting https://dfs.ny.gov/.
- Check Cashers: A check casher can cost an average of $475 in fees annually. Open a bank account or credit union share account which have much lower fees than check cashers.
- Control debt: Out-of-control debt can pile up quickly and become unmanageable. Bad debt will damage your credit and limit your ability to rent an apartment, finance a car, to buy a home, in some cases, your ability to secure a good job and more. Free professional help is available including one-on-one financial counseling at NYC Financial Empowerment Centers by calling 311 to schedule an appointment or visiting https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/index.page. Also visit www.annualcreditreport.com to download free copies of your credit reports every twelve months from Trans Union, Equifax and Experian for your review or by calling 877-322-8228.
- Citizenship or Immigration loans: These loans are supposed to help cover the cost of the naturalization application and legal fees. However, if you’re considering this type of loan, be sure to compare terms, conditions and rates from several banks and credit unions. You can also receive free legal help with Citizenship applications through NYCitizenship, calling 311 and say “citizenship appointment” or the NYCitizenship hotline at 212-514-4277.
- Predatory Lending: Used Car loans, Blessing Scam, Lending Circle scam, Fortune Telling scam. BEWARE!
Free Business courses: Available in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Haitian Creole, French, Bengali and Arabic through NYC’s Immigrant Business Initiative at https://www.nyc.gov/immigrantbusinesses or call 311 and ask for Business Services for Immigrants.