U.S. officials say, scammers are attempting to prey on the families of some of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children crossing the border from Central America. The FBI tells Fox 2 news, the scheme is an active investigation.
“We have an active investigation right now we have been working really hard on this investigation. We learned about these fraud schemes Friday and we have agents who are working to identify other victims and subjects possibly,” Michelle Lee, FBI spokesperson.
Scammers are seeking money for phony travel costs. The FBI says they have uncovered two similar fraud schemes targeting family members of the children who are living illegally in the U.S.
“We believe that the contact is taking place by phone saying that money has to be collected in order to process the unaccompanied child or to pay for the travel expenses to be reuniting the child with their family. So we want the public to be on guard,” adds Lee.
Lee says callers are requesting payments from the families of these young immigrants ranging from 300 to several thousand dollars. The number of victims and amount of losses is unknown at this time.
“We want to warn potential victims that there are individuals that are out there that may be calling them and we want to prevent these potential victims from being defrauded,” says Lee.
Officials said many of the family members being preyed on in the new fraud have already borrowed several thousand dollars to pay smugglers to get the children into the United States. Lee tells Fox 2 News, fraud schemes like this one are not uncommon.
“Anytime you have a humanitarian crisis, the public is very generous and unfortunately criminals out there take advantage of this generosity pretending to be charitable organizations that are collecting money to help some of these children and we want to make sure that we can prevent some of these terrible situations from occurring,” explains Lee.
The FBI advises the public to investigate further, take caution and be skeptical before making a payment or donation of any kind.