By Sophia Stephens
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
In recent weeks, members of the Seattle Chinese and Chinese American communities have reported receiving scam phone calls from a 253 area code number.
According to an email sent by a concerned Northwest Asian Weekly reader, the robocaller speaks in Chinese, claims to be from the Chinese consulate, and states that the recipient’s immigration/visa status is in jeopardy before requesting that the recipient dial 9 to proceed.
Staff members of the Northwest Asian Weekly and Seattle Chinese Post have also received such calls — some as recently as this week.
These calls are of particular concern for members of the community who are in the process of obtaining citizenship, are living in the United States on a visa, or are living here while retaining their Chinese citizenship. With current events around President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and stance on undocumented immigrants, these calls can appear to be a compelling threat to vulnerable recipients who receive the scam call.
The Chinese Embassy and Consulates-General in the United States has an official statement on the scam calls on their website, which states that the institutions “would not ask for personal information, deliver parcel pick-up notice, or ask people to answer inquiries from [a] police department by way of phone calls. The Embassy would not ask for bank account information… If you get [a] suspicious phone call of such kind, you could contact the Chinese Embassy or Consulates General to verify it … The Chinese Embassy is working with [the] Federal Trade Commision (FTC) in phone scam prevention.”
When asked via email about the situation with the phone calls in the greater Seattle community, Detective Mark Jamieson of the Seattle Police Department said, “This is definitely a scam. There have been other reported incidents throughout the U.S. and Canada over the past year. The best advice if you receive one of these calls is to simply hang up and do not give out any personal information.”
If you have received such a phone call, you can report to the following institutions and agencies:
Federal Trade Commission: 1-877-FTC-HELP, 1-877-ID-THEFT, www.ftc.gov.
National Center for Disaster Fraud: (866) 720-5721, by fax at (225) 334-4707, or by email at email@example.com.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): (202) 324-3000, or online at www.fbi.gov or tips.fbi.gov.
Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General: 1-800-HHS-TIPS, www.oig.hhs.gov.
Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): www.ic3.gov.
U.S. Postal Inspection Service: 1-800-372-8347, postalinspectors.uspis.gov.
Securities and Exchange Commission: 1-800-SEC-0330, www.sec.gov, www.sec.gov/complaint/select.shtml.
Sophia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.