This fraud scheme targets the families of unaccompanied immigrant children

Scammers are preying on the relatives of unaccompanied immigrant children awaiting processing in the United States, pretending to be immigration officials and demanding substantial payments, according to U.S. authorities

The fraudsters claim the payments, ranging from $300 to several thousand dollars, will cover processing and travel costs to unite the children with their families.

Salvadorian immigrant Stefany Marjorie, 8, holds her doll while going home on July 24 in Mission, Tex. (John Moore/Getty Images)

San Antonio-based FBI officials first warned of the scheme more than a week ago, and the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services sent out an alert about the same issue on Tuesday.

Health and Human Services runs the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is in charge of making placement decisions for the immigrant kids. The department said it never requests fees or payments related to the unaccompanied children.

“If someone asks you to make a payment for fees or expenses related to the processing, travel or reunification of unaccompanied children, do not under any circumstances give the person money, credit card information, bank account numbers or any other form of payment,” the inspector general’s office said in a statement.

The Obama administration has proposed releasing thousands of the unattended immigrant children to live temporarily with friends and family members throughout the country as they await processing, a plan that has prompted concern among governors from both parties.

MORE: Where is the U.S. housing the unaccompanied immigrant kids?

The U.S. Border Patrol has estimated that the United States will pick up 90,000 unattended immigrant minors at the Southwest border by the end of September.

Anyone with information about the fraud scheme can contact the inspector general’s office at 800-447-8477 or fill out an online report.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · July 30, 2014