Finding a trusted immigration lawyer can be a daunting task for many clients, particularly because immigration is a very sensitive and personal issue, as such finding the right immigration lawyer can often be the key to the success of your case.
Fraudsters are becoming more and more aware of targeting clients whom are looking for all kinds of professional services particularly lawyers, because they know migrants may be in position of weakness due to their proximity, language skills or simply the stress of the visa process. As such it is important to take great care when engaging an immigration lawyer. Here are some key rules to follow at all times;
Westkin Associates – Immigration Fraud avoidance:
1. Never reply directly to unsolicited emails from persons claiming to be lawyers or immigration consultants. It is a common scam that fraudsters will contact people out of the blue with a proposal of some sorts, usually sounding very innocent, such as the need to transfer some money in return for a large share. The fraudsters would then either pose as a lawyer in the first instance or introduce a second person that may be posing as a lawyer in order to give credibility to what they are claiming.
The scam would then usually result in the victim transferring a sum of money to the fraudsters on the promise of it being just a small admin fee or even legal fees. To avoid being identified the fraudsters typically request payment using services such as Western Union/Moneygram or digital currencies such as Bitcoin.
2. If you have found a law firm that you may be able to assist you then you should conduct some basic checks. Firstly check out their website, does it look professionally? Do they have an address which matches to a search on an online map? Furthermore if you have been contact out of the blue directly or by a marketing email, then does the email from the firms website match the ones that you have received? Fraudsters will typically change just one letter in a domain email to make it look like a real email. For example if real firms email is email@example.com then the fraudsters could use an email that is firstname.lastname@example.org, as you can see this is hard to spot at first.
3. Next step is to contact the firm, preferably by telephone where possible, speak with the relevant person at the firm and see if they sound professional and know what they are doing? If they are promising something that sounds to good to be true the it more than likely is not. If you are inside the UK attend their office for a meeting, an office location gives a very strong indication of how legitimate a firm may be. As an example a firm based in Central London would most definitely be legitimate as the cost of their office would mean that it would be out of reach for fraudsters. Also make sure that you view the office itself and don’t just go straight to a meeting room in for example a hotel or business centre as some more sophisticated fraudsters could rent a room just for your visit.
4. If you are outside the UK then ask to be booked in for a Skype conference, fraudsters would be unlikely to want to reveal their face and you can match the persons face to the person that you believe you have been talking to. You should also be able to hear the ambient noises of an office, if you cannot just ask the lawyer politely if they can quickly show you the office space for your re-assurance.
5. Next up you should read their reviews, rely on a number of places such as Google and other independent review websites. Although reviews on their own website may be useful it is always best to read reviews that are on independent websites. Study the reviews, the total number of reviews is a good indicator as a few reviews can be faked but large scale reviews is much harder. Look at the content of each review, do they sound like real people and real cases? It is also good to consider that for a genuine business that not all the reviews may be positive. A business that has over 50 review should by average at least have a few reviews that are not all 5 starts because if they do then it may be an indicator of fake reviews or worse a fraudulent website.
6. Next up check out if the company is regulated by the appropriate body, for UK Immigration this should in most cases either be the OISC (offices of immigration services commissioner) or the SRA (Solicitors regulation Authority) – As the law firm how to find a confirmation that the firm is regulated on the regulators website. In most cases the regulators website will contain the direct website and contact details of the firm which you can cross check with the details that you have.
7. Once you have had an initial consultation with the firm either in person or via skype/telephone then a real firm would always send you a client care letter. A client care letter is a requirement for all lawyers to be sent to a potential client before they make a payment. The client care letter should clearly set out what your case is about, what the firm has promised to do for you, what the cost will be as well as a clear indication of their procedures for refunds, complaints or any other issues.
8.Other thins that you can look out for are simple things like; does the website contain pictures and profiles of the people that work there? Does the number your calling match the local and international dialling code? Is their website well written and full of content? Do they have social media accounts such as Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook?
Follow these 8 simple rules and you should avoid immigration fraud.
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