Scammers are illegally charging hundreds of US dollars to send messages to The Haitian Times on behalf of people seeking US sponsors.
Scammers have duped hundreds of people into thinking they would find a sponsor to help them immigrate to the United States by submitting messages to The Haitian Times, the publication has learned. Two victims of the illegal scheme told The Haitian Times they were charged $200 and $500, separately, to have messages sent using the outlet’s comment feature.
Out of prudence, The Haitian Times did not publish the submitted comments, which number in the hundreds, because they contained detailed personal information that managers felt might open up the senders to wrongdoing.
“Don’t pay anyone money to submit comments, emails or any other format for you,” said Macollvie J. Neel, The Haitian Times executive editor. “Unscrupulous characters are out there preying on unsuspecting Haitians who want to come to America at every step of the process. Unfortunately, they’ve targeted our platform as well.”
“Please know unequivocally that The Haitian Times is not involved in any way in matching people with sponsors nor able to help anyone going through the immigration process,” Neel said to those seeking sponsors. “Anyone, anywhere who tells you otherwise is lying to you and should be reported immediately to the authorities. Do not give them your money because you will end up being a victim of immigration fraud.”
The scam came to light when The Haitian Times analyzed hundreds of messages seeking sponsors submitted to its website. Close inspection revealed that many of the comments under different names were coming from the same IP address.
Followup messages sent to the aspiring immigrants revealed that they were paying for those messages to be sent.
One man reached by The Haitian Times said he paid $USD 200 for his message to be sent. The suspected scammer, whom he had not met in person, communicated with him by phone. The man declined to provide further details until he speaks to the suspected scammer again.
Another person told The Haitian Times that she paid $USD 500.
The Haitian Times is not revealing the identities of those persons who said they paid for fear of reprisal against them.
Nature of comments submitted
The I-134A process for humanitarian parole allows up to 30,000 people per month from Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba to travel to the United States over two years. The entire application process is done online and the U.S.-based sponsor must fill out the form for the Haitian beneficiaries.
The program launched in January and, according to immigration officials, at least a couple thousand beneficiaries have already arrived in the U.S.
The Haitian Times has reported on the migration developments since the Jan. 5 announcement about the humanitarian parole process under the Biden Administration. It has published at least two dozen articles, videos and graphics about the process, questions and reactions arising in Haiti and among the U.S.-based families considering sponsorship. Two articles in particular — “Welcome.US opens registration for Haitians looking for American sponsors” and “Eight key things about financially sponsoring Haitian immigrants” — drew the most submitted comments from the suspected scammers.
In some messages, the scammer or scammers wrote the full name, phone number, email address, passport number and some personal details about the life and aspirations of the sponsor seekers.
The first suspicious comment asking for a sponsor dates back to Jan. 19. Many of the comments are written in English, others in Creole, some in Spanish, and they identify the Haitians seeking sponsors as living in Haiti, Chile and the Dominican Republic mainly.
One unpublished comment from someone The Haitian Times reached Mar. 8 said: “God morning every one and God bless anyone in this Organisation. I”m Haitian and I have a son. I”m looking for a sponsor for The Biden’s process Parole. For more informations. My first name is. [REDACTED] My last name is. [REDACTED] My email is. [REDACTED] My number is. [REDACTED] My pasport number is. [REDACTED] I born the [REDACTED] in the State of [REDACTED] Haiti) I live in the [REDACTED]. I hope You can help me with your support. Thank you” [sic]
A few people said they heard through a WhatsApp group and word of mouth that sending the messages could help them find a sponsor faster.
One person told The Haitian Times that she was erroneously promised a sponsor within 90 days.
Authorities across borders alerted
In its analysis of the unpublished comments, The Haitian Times technology team determined that, based on the IP address, the person or group submitting the comments may be located in the Dominican Republic.
The outlet also produced video explainers about the process, visual widgets to aid in applications, and one story to date highlighting the plight of sponsor seekers so readers would understand why so many Haitians wanted to come to the U.S.
Besides the comments, some people have inundated The Haitian Times reporters with requests for help immigrating. Neel said the publication has stopped responding to such messages, as a rule, and has an auto responder telling senders such.
In the coming days, Neel said, The Haitian Times will take additional steps to inform sponsor seekers about this scam by publishing various beware alerts and public service announcements in multiple languages.
The company is also alerting anti-fraud authorities in the U.S. about the scam.
“A key reason we’re being targeted is because we’re the only publication covering Haiti and the Haitian at this level on a daily basis,” Neel said. “That’s why we’re being so proactive about letting people know immediately to be aware and to stay vigilant about such promises from charlatans.”
An earlier version of this article was published Mar. 8.