Despite the adorable romantic comedy similarly titled Green Card may lead you to believe, a green card romance scam is a big deal, and it can be dangerous. The popularity of online dating and the easy networking potential of social media has brought in a new wave of scammers who use lies, manipulation, and trickery to enter a sham marriage with you in the hopes of getting access to the States.
These scams are becoming more and more popular, and harder to recover from, especially as the immigration laws reach a point of controversy. The government has been taking drastic measures to keep immigration under control, which has caused many hopeful wannabe Americans to turn to scamming online to get their way into the country.
Don’t be a victim of these green card romance scams! Protect yourself by being educated and taking the steps to prevent yourself from being scammed.
What is a Green Card Romance Scam?
To put it simply, a green card romance scam is the occurrence of a relationship beginning online where one person is genuinely invested romantically, but the other is only interacting for the green card they get out of the marriage. Often times, they will abuse finances, connections, and other personal parts of their victim’s life in order to make theirs easier.
Scammers involved in this caliber of fraud are not in it for a quick payout like most romance scams online. These liars are in it for the long-game, and if you get tangled up with a green card scheme, they probably have the next 5 years of their lies planned out. It may sound a little impossible, but this is a real problem and it does happen!
In fact, these scams are so regular that the USCIS, the government agency in charge of issuing green cards, are trained to validate marriages and try and sniff out fraudsters. Unfortunately, by the time they see the red flags, you’re already waist-deep in the mess. Your best option if you are online dating is to get started with precautionary measures now to protect yourself against these scams.
Popular Places Green Card Romance Scams Happen
The USA is a desirable place for those in impoverished, dangerous countries. Please don’t think that these countries can be easily generalized or chalked up to all being deceitful, because that isn’t true. Many online daters from countries with higher scam rates are genuinely good people looking for love, but unfortunately, the numbers do play against their favor.
Countries and areas that are most likely to be using online dating for their green card scams may include:
America isn’t the only country targeted, either. Canada also struggles with fighting off green card romance scams, and some areas in Europe may see this occasionally as well. Though the States do get the brunt of the fraudsters, it is a worldwide epidemic, and anyone can be scammed online for money.
How Do These Scams Happen?
First, a scammer will take to popular online dating platforms to try and lure in victims. They’ll get close with you, and quickly move the relationship into one full of supposed passion. Relationships with scammers always move at lightning speed, and it won’t be long before they’re putting the idea of marriage in your mind. This is the easy part, believe it or not.
Once the green card is issued and your marriage is confirmed, the scammer has to keep up the fraud for at least two years. Green cards are only valid for this time period, and after that waiting time, a green card holder and their spouse must file more documents to get it extended for 10 years, and to allow the foreign citizen to apply for full citizenship in the USA.
The process of securing a green card isn’t really an easy one. You need to fill out several forms together, go through interviews where you are quizzed about the relationship, and have random drop-ins for home inspections. Plus, the fees alone can be up to thousands of dollars, and that isn’t including the lawyer fees.
It’s mountains of paperwork, and lots of stress… but guess what? The scammer is going to let you do all the heavy lifting here, and they already know what to expect. These fraudsters online have done extensive research into the process and they’ll be walking into it like a pro.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? You wouldn’t be wrong! However to a scammer, this is just like a job to them. You are their full-time job, and once married, they’ll have access to everything that is yours. For two years, they have to just maintain the vision of a perfect partner, and then they can disappear, leaving you with all the mess.
The Dangers Of Green Card Romance Scams
Aside from the obvious, and very detrimental, emotional and mental dangers of falling for these scams… victims face very serious legal and financial repercussions as well. Many green card scammers care very little for their spouse, and won’t hesitate to use their assets. This includes savings accounts, stocks, belongings, credit lines, and anything else related to money.
Scammers may also choose to have children with their victims to help “sell” their fraud of a family, and to encourage the USCIS to approve their green card status, or to speed up the process. It may also be used as a way to trap their partners into staying with them, and when the divorce comes, things get sticky.
Nothing good can ever come from a green card romance scam. Your partner won’t “eventually” fall for you, and things won’t get better when they get what they want. They will only take and take until you’re bled dry, and it’s the brutal truth.
How To Prevent Yourself From Being Scammed
You can take a few steps to deter a scammer from even targeting you to begin with. With some simple habits, you can safely connect with singles online without the fear of being tricked into a green card scam like this. Dating online is highly encouraged, and there are tons of reviews and guides that help you choose the best, safest place to get started. Don’t let the fear of fraud scare you off before you give it a genuine chance!
1. Profile information
We want to make our profiles detailed and explanatory of lots of things to give potential matches a good idea of who we are as a person. However, not everything should be on the first page display. Keeping some details private may benefit you in the long run, such as past relationship statuses (divorced or widowed), yearly income, or desperation for a partner.
All of these things will stand out to someone who needs a vulnerable target, and your profile will go to the top of their hit list. By keeping these things private until you have already started talking with someone on a personal level, you can bypass the scope of fake accounts out there entirely.
You’ve matched with someone and the conversation has been going great! These are both good signs, but in the early stages when you meet someone online, you should be a little cautious with them. Don’t spill your guts within the first hour, and try to arrange a phone call conversation before you reveal too much of your financial or personal details.
Being too distrusting of everyone you meet can get exhausting, so you’re not expected to over-do it! Just be mindful of what you say early on, and watch their intentions in the first day or so. If they seem to be digging into strange topics or pushing things, it’s time to re-evaluate.
3. Relationship progression
One of the biggest points of a green card romance scam is the speed at which they move. Realistically, you probably won’t find your soul mate within a week, and you won’t be thinking of marriage super fast. For some, this is what really happens, and that’s great! But keep your own expectations realistic, and be cautious if your online match seems very, very eager to get serious.
Another way to progress things naturally is by offering to voice chat, video chat, or by exchanging frequent pictures and selfies. Asking for details about their lives, their past, and their future goals can help you see through the facade. Plus, these are all normal questions to ask in a new relationship, so you aren’t behaving strangely.
4. Get advice
If you’re still unsure if you should be continuing a relationship online with someone, get an outside opinion. Many victims of a green card romance scam admit that later on, years down the line, they were ashamed to come out to family and friends about their relationship for fear of pessimistic opinions or judgement.
Someone who is removed from the situation and can offer unbiased insight to if the person you care for is genuine can be valuable to you as you decide to progress. Trusting someone to steer you in the right direction should be done only with someone you know will give genuine care and consideration into the advice they give you.
How To Spot A Green Card Scammer
As you are online dating, even if you take every measure to protect yourself, there may come a time when you suspect you’re being taken advantage of. Here is a useful, simple checklist of questions you can use against any online match you’re talking with to help determine their motives with you. Run through these questions mentally each time you start to feel close to someone new.
- Do they bring up money or financial needs often?
- Are they increasingly insistent on moving to my country?
- Are they reluctant to talk about themselves?
- Is the speed of our relationship progression unrealistic?
- Do they come from an impoverished country?
- Are they a little too knowledgeable about the immigration laws and processes?
- Have I really seen or spoken to them to confirm who they are?
If you answer yes to a few of these questions at a time, it’s best to withdraw from the relationship and really look at it objectively. For most people, it’s considered rude to constantly talk about money and immigration in the early stages of a relationship. Why would someone genuine be pressuring you like this before you even met?
Unfortunately, some relationships have already gotten past the point of return before suspicions it’s a scam even pop up. Many times, a victim won’t realize the truth until they are already married, and by then… it may feel like it’s game over.
This is a myth! You can always repair a green card romance scam situation, even after the marriage has happened.
What To Do If You Were Scammed
If you are a victim of this fraudulent marriage, it’s extremely important that you report it immediately to the FBI and the USCIS. You need to be protected moving forward, and the scammer should be punished for their crimes. Yes, a green card romance scam is illegal! You will not be held accountable for your spouse’s actions.
To report a scam, you need to have all of the personal information, documentation, and receipts regarding the scammer. Offices are all around the country in every big city, so you should be able to find them easily to provide the information they require. Next, don’t forget to get support! The financial damages are not the only part of this that is devastating for you. Your heart has been toyed with, your mind is fuzzy, and everything hurts. This is a very delicate time for your emotions, and you’re a trauma survivor now. Finding someone to talk to and getting help through this process is very important.