A new scam targeting Haitian Americans trying to bring their relatives from the earthquake-riddled country to the United States has surfaced, authorities warned today.
Haitian Americans contacted in the scheme are offered documents they supposedly need to bypass the official government process to bring family members from the devastated island to America, according to the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Victims in the scheme, who are reportedly handed fliers or reached by phone, are told to wire $500 in exchange for the documents and a confirmation number that will allegedly allow them to fly to Haiti and bring five relatives home.
But the promised documents and flight are phony, according to the Haitian Embassy in Washington and the Greater Washington Haiti Relief Committee. They said this scam is simply a new twist to the old advance fee scheme.
Haitian Americans who want to bring their relatives from the earthquake-ravaged country to the United States should contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at (800) 375-5283. They can also contact the agency online at www.uscis.gov.
On January 12, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked the poor, island country of Haiti. The cataclysmic quake has since claimed the lives of an estimated 150,000 people, but authorities say that number is likely to climb. At least 4,800 Americans are still unaccounted for.
The powerful seismic tremor, centered about 14 miles west of the crowded capital of Port-Au-Prince, also injured more than 190,000 people. Search teams, however, have rescued 134 people from beneath the rubble in Port-Au-Prince.
Reports of catastrophic damage are widespread in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Thousands of homes, schools, and other buildings collapsed under the earthquake's horrific force.
The country now estimates at least one million people are homeless and some 300,000 children younger than two need nutritional support.
Relief, however, continues to pour in from around the world. More than $1 billion in international aid has been pledge to the relief efforts since the earthquake ripped apart the country two weeks ago.
The United States has promised $317 million in financial assistance and sent 17,000 military personnel to the region.