Saturday, August 13, 2011

BBB Warns Consumers of Businesses Misrepresenting Themselves

The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois (BBB) is warning consumers to beware of websites and businesses claiming to provide assistance with immigration services. The BBB recently became aware of an increase in operations claiming to provide passport, citizenship and immigration services, in particular the website
In July alone, the BBB received 32 complaints filed by consumers which eclipses all other months this year. The BBB has a total of 46 complaints since January 2011 when consumers began contacting the BBB in earnest with their concerns. In 24 of those complaints, consumers allege US Immigration Organization, the business that operates the website, misrepresented itself as a government entity. The BBB has turned this information over to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office for their review due to the increasing number of complaints being received.
“Immigrants who may speak little to no English can easily fall prey to unscrupulous businesses” said Steve J. Bernas, president, & CEO serving the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Businesses are willing to take advantage of anything from a language barrier to someone who is short on time, and scam innocent people out of their money.”
“Consumers have spent anywhere from $75 to hundreds of dollars on these services, thinking they were receiving official assistance with their passport, visa, and naturalization applications”, Bernas noted. “In return, they received only the applications that are free and easily accessible through the federal government.
"It is very important for people to fully read and understand any website and its disclaimers before doing businesses on it," the BBB president stated. "This is particularly necessary when a person is seeking assistance involving personal identification or government programs. There are operations whose intent is to deceive people into thinking the business is something it is not, so people send money and the business also gains access to information about their identities.
In the wake of similar activities around the country, the Federal Trade Commission has created multi-lingual educational materials for consumers. These tools can help educate consumers to avoid immigration scams and provide the means to file FTC complaints and report suspected scams or fraud.