Scammers representing fake charities are preying on the families of the thousands of illegal immigrant children who are coming across the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America.
According to Reuters, an FBI investigation uncovered numerous instances in which scammers have tried to collect “phony travel costs” from the families of the illegal immigrant children. Many of the families pay thousands of dollars to smugglers or coyotes to bring their children to America on harrowing journeys in which children are often maimed, raped, or killed.
FBI Special Agent Michelle Lee told Reuters that one fraud scheme “involved individuals who claimed to be representing a charitable or nonprofit organization, which they claimed assists in processing and reuniting the children with their families.” Scammers have also reportedly used “caller I.D. spoofing” to request “payments from the families of the young immigrants ranging from $300 to several thousand dollars, claiming the money was for travel expenses.”
Since federal officials cannot immediately deport illegal immigrant children from countries other than Mexico or Canada, the illegal immigrant children are often reunited with family members in the United States with “notices to appear,” which migrants have often mistaken as “permisos” to remain indefinitely in the United States.
The families of illegal immigrant children can run into numerous roadblocks besides U.S. law. Some migrant children are kidnapped or sold to cartels and other smugglers, who then try to extort more money from their parents or family members in the United States. Other families may be indebted to cartels or gangs who help them pay the smugglers to bring their children over to the United States.
Nearly 60,000 illegal immigrant children have entered the country since October of last year, and federal officials expect at least 150,000 more in the next fiscal year.