The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that they are mailing out 4,976 refund checks and making 44,136 PayPal payments to consumers who were defrauded by a fake immigration form preparation service.
More than $2 million will be paid out to those who purchased the services from the American Immigration Center, according to the FTC. Each consumer will be receiving $42.71.
The commission says that, starting in 2010, the company placed false information on its website that they were affiliated with the U.S. government and could sell immigration form preparation services to consumers.
The FTC states that many of the consumers were attempting to reach the actual immigration website where they could renew their green cards and apply for naturalization. Consumers reportedly paid the business $120 to $300 before they found out that American Immigration Center was not connected with the government.
The FTC announced that it has levied a $2.2 million judgment against American Immigration Center to pay for the refunds being sent to the customers that were allegedly defrauded. According to the FTC consent order, the company is banned from engaging in the illegal behavior cited in the complaint. The settlement will also require the defendants to divulge that their websites are not affiliated with the U.S. government.
American Immigration Center and its owner Cesare Alessandrini settled with the FTC in October 2018. The commission determined that consumers found the defendants’ misleading and illegal system when they went to search engines such as Google and Yahoo and entered in terms like “USCIS,” “INS,” or “US Immigration” and clicked on the defendants’ advertisements.
Instead of going to the government website for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), consumers were brought to one of the defendants’ numerous websites, according to the 2018 FTC press release.
The websites used government-related images, such as a picture of a passport or a picture of Barack Obama to enhance the false impression that consumers landed on a government website, the FTC maintains.
Also, the FTC argues that the defendants used web addresses such as usimmigration.us, us-immigration.com, uscitizenship.info, and usimmigrationcitizenship.com that were used to confuse consumers. In addition, the defendants used a USCIS form number or an abbreviated version of the form name to enhance their fraudulent scheme, according to the FTC.
The FTC claimed that American Immigration Center did not explain to consumers that they were really selling a “software wizard” which could be used to fill out immigration forms. Nor did the defendants tell consumers that the fees charged did not include government filing fees, the FTC notes.
Consumers who receive a check from the FTC should cash or deposit the check within 60 days, the FTC states in the press release. The refund administrator for this matter is Analytics Inc. and the FTC notes that it never requires consumers to provide any information or pay funds to cash their refund checks.
The FTC asks consumers to call Analytics at 1-877-729-1539 if they have any questions about the refunds.
Have you received a check from the FTC? Leave a message in the comments section below.
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