Connect to share and comment

Indian hustle: How fraudsters prey on would-be US tech workers

The huge demand for just 65,000 H1-B visas means hefty profits for con-artists.

India tech workers facebook logoEnlarge
The Facebook logo is reflected in a young Indian woman's sunglasses as she browses on a tablet in Bangalore on May 15, 2012. Indians eager for US work visas are prime targets for con-artists. (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI, India ­— It’s a simple equation: India has millions of tech geeks who would love to work in the US.

But they need visas.

And the US issues just 65,000 of these per year, under its so-called H-1B program for high-skilled workers.

For freelance techies, the temptation is overwhelming.

And that, naturally, has opened up a world of opportunity for fraudsters.

Hundreds of small companies in India and the US claim to be able to arrange an H-1B visa — for the right price. Some Indians hand over money and never see the broker again — a scam similar to the loan brokerage racket featured in the movie “American Hustle.”

True, most H1-B visas go to Indians, but the majority of these are snapped up by big outsourcing firms like Cognizant, Tata Consultancy Services and Infosys.

That only serves to amp up the desperation felt by freelance techies.  

Some are lucky enough to get a visa — only to find that the promised job in the US doesn’t materialize. Then the visa holders are forced to return to India after spending thousands of dollars just surviving.

No official figures are available for the number of frauds in India, but an unclassified document released by Wikileaks showed that in 2009, US consular officials cited H-1B scams as one of the two most common fraud categories in India.

Jaspal Singh, a Delhi-based software professional, told GlobalPost that in 2010 he fell victim to a New York-based company called IT Holdings Inc.

“They took $2,500 from me for visa filing, but they did not file anything,” he said. “After few months they refunded $500.” 

Singh was not the only victim. Nitin Mohan, also from Delhi, lost $1,000 to IT Holdings Inc in Jun 2010, he told GlobalPost. After months spent trying to persuade them to refund his money, he eventually posted a thread on Trackitt, an immigration site. Four other people came forward with similar stories.

Although Mohan tried to file a criminal complaint, attempts to contact the New York Police Department from India proved fruitless. He has written off his loss. The IT Holdings Inc website is defunct and a phone number listed as its main contact point is not in service.

“They just disappeared,” Mr Mohan said. “They could be out there acting as a different company and nobody would know.”

Techies use internet forums such as trackitt.com and on Goolti.com to post reviews of working conditions at some of the thousands of IT companies around the world.

Another victim claims to have lost $3,400 to a company that promised to file an H-1B application but vanished instead. Others say they are promised free or cheap training when they arrive in the US, but this was either substandard or never materialize.

Crackdown?

Rajiv Dabhadkar, the chief executive of the National Organization for Software and Technology Professionals (NOSTOPS), has been campaigning for better conditions for IT workers for more than a decade.

“Between 25 and 40 people write to me every week saying they would like to get to the US and asking which company we could recommend,” he said. “These companies are a major problem. The main difference now is that it has become so much more expensive to get H-1B visas. The visa process fees have increased a lot.” Immigration officials ask more questions and check documents more thoroughly than in the past, he added.

While there’s little evidence that the Indian government has pursued the matter, in the US federal officers have had some success in fraud investigations over the last few years.

  • In March 2013, the founders of a Texas-based company called Dibon Solutions were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Court documents filed by prosecutors claimed the brothers, Atul and Jiten Nanda (and four of their employees), had recruited Indian workers on the pretence they would work at the company headquarters in Carrollton, Texas. Instead, they were hired out to other companies. (Attempts to contact the company were unsuccessful.)
  • In a separate investigation, Phani Raju Bhima Raju, an Indian national based in Charlotte, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to five federal charges relating to H-1B visa fraud. His company, iFuturistics, made an estimated $13.2 million in six years by persuading Indians to pay for their H-1B visas and work in the US. “On one occasion a foreign national H-1B visa holder had paid $2,500 to iFuturistics as a security deposit for processing her H-1B visa,” according to a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman in a press release. She was promised a salary of $60,000 but “iFuturistics never provided the worker with any work assignments and failed to pay her any wages.”
  • Federal investigators arrested 11 people in 2009 on suspicion of a similar scam. Vision Systems, a New Jersey company, faced forfeitures of $7.4 million for placing foreign workers in jobs they weren’t entitled to do, replacing American workers. After a plea bargain, the two brothers who ran the firm were given three years’ probation for unlawfully hiring aliens and paid restitution of $236,250 to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Efforts to deal with the problem in India are limited. Data on attempted visa fraud are not collected by the Indian Government or any of the bodies that represent tech companies.

US officials in India make regular reports about fraudulent attempts to get visas. These are not ordinarily published, but Wikileaks released a 2009 paper titled “India Semi-Annual Fraud Update.”

At the time, according to the report, the vast majority of fraudulent applications came from the southern city of Hyderabad. Officers investigated 150 companies in the city and discovered that 77 percent “turned out to be fraudulent or highly suspect.”

Officials uncovered a scheme where Hyderabadis were claiming to work for made-up companies in Pune so the Mumbai consulate would be less suspicious about their applications. “The Hyderabadis claimed that they had opened shell companies in Bangalore because ‘everyone knows Hyderabad has fraud and Bangalore is reputable,’” according to the internal communiqué.

Ameet Nivsarkar, vice president of global trade development for NASSCOM, the trade association for Indian IT companies, said: “Unfortunately this does cause problems for the industry because of the way they operate. They throw the entire H-1B programme into disrepute. This is a legitimate industry that has a legitimate use of the H-1B program.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/140121/india-H1B-fraud-con-artist

GlobDesign 12 months ago
American has been plundered by Indian conmen for well over 15 years now. Why do you think our economy is such a wreck? They come in by the millions, clean everything out, destroy all our companies, and then send the $ back home as fast as possible. No wonder the US economy is such a wreck.
EDWARD SIEGEL More than 1 year ago
MAYBE THEY SHOULD STAY THERE, IN INDIA, RATHER THAN TAKING JOBS AWAY FROM ANY/ALL AMERICANS, MOST ESPECIALLY THE "ELDERLY",AKA CORPORATE-"AGEISM"!!! CAVEAT EMPTOR!!! MY NEIGHBOR/FRIEND JOHN MAJERNIK, 35-YEARS ATT/BELL-LABS RETIREE AND THE BEST COMPUTE-SECURITY EXPERT IN THE UNIVERSE, CAN NOT FIND ANY LONG-TERM./ PERMANENT JOB, WHICH EVEN WITH A NICE PENSION, BUT WITH EVER-INCREASING HEALTH-INSURANCE PREMIUMS, HE IS SEVERAL-YEARS SHY OF GETTING US-MEDICARE, AND IS GOING BROKE WITHHEALTHCARE- PREMIUMS EVER-INCREASING ESCALATION!!! THE LAST TIME I DELT WITH SOME MICROSOFT KID IN MUMBAI, SHE TIOTALLY DESTROYED MY HUGE ADDRESS-BOOK!!! I JUST GOT A SEVERAL (UPON CHECKING: LEGITIMATE!!!) PHONE-CALLS FROM A/SOME MICROSOFT-INDIA KID WHO ACTUALLY EXPECTED ME, A 70-YEAR-OLD SENIOR, TO DIVULGE PERSONAL-INFORMATION/PASSWORDS, TO WHICH I REPLIED THAT HESHOULD SEND ME(AND MY ,LOCAL US-POSTAL-INSPECTORS!!!) A CERTIFIED/ REGISTERED U.S.-MAIL LETTER, NOT SOME "VIRTUAL" E-MAIL", HELL, I WAS DOING WHAT HE TRIED TO DO IN BROOKLYN, DECADES BEFORE HE WAS A PRURIENT-THOUGHT IN HIS FATHER'S LOINS, BEFORE I WAS FIVE YEARS-OLD!!! C A V E A T E M P T O R!!! PERHAPS I WAS TALKING TO "PRINCESS-NEFERTITI OF NIGERIA???!!!. CAVEAT EMPTOR!!! MAYBE THEY SHOULD STAY THERE, IN INDIA, RATHER THAN TAKING JOBS AWAY FROM ANY/ALL AMERICANS, MOST ESPECIALLY THE "ELDERLY" ,AKA CORPORATE-"AGEISM"!!! CAVEAT EMPTOR!!!
GlobDesign 12 months ago
I've written 18 successful commercial software products including at Apple and Sony (PlayStation). I am unemployed while these conmen have our jobs. Why? Indians lust after anything that has $ and prestige and they will do anything to get it including fraud, killing, lies, cons, theft, immigration violations, etc. America is being plundered by INDIA! Wake up America! We need to end H-1B and deport all Indians now!
EDWARD SIEGEL More than 1 year ago
INDIAN-FRAUDSTERS PREYING-UPON WOULD-BE BJUT Y O U N G(!!!) US-TECH WORKERS?? (NOT AGED BUT NOT NEARLY AS/SO STUPID AS THE YOUNG!!!; INSTEAD OFDOMINATED-BY SOCIAL-MEDIA FACEBOOK ONE PROPOSES, TO MOON AT ONES ONE DETESTS, LIKE CORPORATE H.R. HACKS, ASSBOOK!!! ) WHY? WHY INDEED!!! "A G E I S M"!!! THIS "SOCIOLOGICAL-DYSFUNCTIONALITY" (S-DE) FUELED BY "JARGONIAL-OBFUSCATION" (AKA "LOTSA FANCY SHMANCY LINGO TO SNOW THE RUBES!!!"). TRADITIONAL ASIAN SOCIETIES HONORED THE ELDERLY OF MORE-ADVANCED AGES!!! BUT NOW THE YOUNG, WITH ALL THEIR FANCY-SHMANCY TECH-GEAR, HAVE NO TIME FOR THE/THEIR(!!) ELDERLY: PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS!!! HERE IN SEATTLE EVERYTHING IS TECH TECH TECH!!! IF YOU DON'T HAVE A SELF-CRUCIFYING FACEBOOK PAGE YOU ARE RELEGATED TO THE ASH-HEAP OF "ANCIENT" HISTORY AT BEST!!! I AT 70 HERE INBOTH SAN DIEGO AND IN SEATTLE HAVE APPLIED FOR NUMEROUS JOBS (IN SILICON-VALLEY(30 YEARS AGO THERE I AT 40 WAS ALREADY "TOO OLD"!!!)!!! HERE COMPANIES MICROSOFT(BILL GATES EMPIRE!!!; WIE GEHTS???), AMAZON(WHICH WAS DENIAL-OF-ACCESS ATTACKED(SUMMER, 2012) VIA MY SIEGEL "CYBER-WAR"!!!), VULCAN(PAUL ALLEN'S SUPERBOWL SEAHAWKS BILLIONAIRE; BUT THEIR ARISTOTLE-ORACLE PROJECT WITH SILICON-VALLEY'S STANFORD RESEARCH INSTITUTE(MENLO-PARK, CALIFORNIA) WAS DONE BY MYSELF WITH CHARLES ROSEN(RIP; MACHINE-INTELLIGENCE, ATHERTON, CA.) IRWIN WUNDERMAN(RIP; HEWLETT-PACKARD, PALO ALTO), JACOB GOLDMAN(VICE-CHAIRMAN; XEROX PARC, PALO ALTO), VESCO MARINOV & ADOLPH SMITH(EXXON-ENTERPRISES/ ARTIFICIAL-INTELLIGENCE, SANTA CLARA, CA.), PHYSICS NOBEL-LAUREATE RICHARD FEYNMAN(RIP; CALTECH)), GOOGLE(WHICH I HELPED FOUND WHEN PAGE AND BRIN PURLOINED/STOLE[RICHARD BELEW, "LOOKING OUT ABOUT", CAMBRIDGE(2000)] MY/SIEGEL INTELLECTUAL-PROPERTY[JOURNAL OF NONCRYSTALLINE-SOLIDS 40, 453(1980);IBM CONFERENCE ON COMPUTERS AND MATHEMATICS, STANFORD(1986); SYMPOSIUM ON FRACTALS, MRS.ORG FALL MEETING, BOSTON(1989); (1990); (1991);...]!!! USA’S/JAPAN’S/KOREA’S/INDIA’S/CHINA’S/…/ANY/ALL COMPANIES (AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!) AND ANY/ALL UNIVERSITIES[LIKE: UNIVERSITY OF WISH-INGTON, CAL-STATE UNIVERSITIES: SDSU, UC’S CAMPUSES: UCSB, UCSD, UCLA, UCB, UCSC,…, (AD INFINITUM!!!/AD NAUSEUM!!!) AND ANY/ALL FEDERAL-AGENCIES(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!) AND ANY/ALL STATE-AGENCIES(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!) AND ANY/ALL COUNTY/CITY AGENCIES(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!) GIVE PRO-FORMA (AKA GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS) LIP-SERVICE TO OUTREACH ECUMENICISM TO “UNDER-REPRESENTED” “MINORITIES” OF ALL SHAPES(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!), COLORS(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!), HUES(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!), SIZES(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!), …: BLACKS(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!), HISPANICS(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!), WOMEN(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!), ASIANS(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!), PACIFIC-ISLANDERS(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!),..,MARTIANS(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!),…, LEGAL-ALIENS(WITH GREEN-CARDS(AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!)),…, ILLEGAL-ALIENS(NO H1B VISAS YET!!! (AD NAUSEUM!!!/AD INFINITUM!!!)),.., ANYONE/EVERYONE E X C E P T THOSE WITH LONG-EXPERIENCE, AKA THE ELDERLY, AKA “AGE-ISM”!!! RECENTLY I HAD A PHONE-INTERVIEW WITH VULCAN AND WHEN ASKED IF I WRITE-CODE, I REPLIED THAT I THEORIZE/CREATE/DID CREATE/CREATED THE FIRST [MODULO MY ELDERS: KANT, HEGEL, PLATO, ARISTOTLE(“SQUARE-OF-OPPOSITION”)!!!] (“SOFTWARE”)-ONTOLOGIES VERSUS TECHNICIANS WRITE CODE!!! THEN THEY ASKED IF I “SPEAK” JAVA/JAVE-SCRIPT!!! I REPLIED THAT I AM FLUENT IN IT(I DO NOT EVEN HAVE A CLUE HOW TO PROGRAM THE FIRST INITIAL OF MY LAST-NAME IN IT!!!) WHY??? BECAUSE I SPENT SOME YEARS IN BANDUNG, JAVA, INDONESIA WHERE ANYONE AND EVERYONE “SPEAKS JAVA”, AKA BAHASA INDONESIA!!! SO THESE ASIAN-ELDERLY SUICIDES-PANDEMIC IS THEIR OFFSPRING’S GENERIC ENDEMIIC EXTANT AGE-DISCRIMINATIIN “AGE-ISM”, MAKING THEM(ESPECIALLY CAREER/JOB-CENTERED MEN ) FEEL COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT HENCE “WORTHLESS”!!! (BUT NOT NEARLY AS/SO STUPID AS THE YOUNG!!!)
dmconroy More than 1 year ago
Congrats, Mr. Tapper for covering this dirty secret. These Because all white-collar visa programs do not require employers to seek local talent first, these scam companies can operate freely, essentially criminalizing the U.S. market for IT temp labor. The Gang of 8 tried to fix this. They proposed making all companies offer the U.S. job to any equally or better qualified American, but Sen. Hatch succeeded in removing this for most companies. However, this provision would have covered these criminals, effectively shutting down their operations. Meanwhile, employment discrimination against U.S. talent is widespread in the tech industry, based on age, race, gender, national origin and even military status. It's so brazen, these companies place "No Americans Need Apply" job ads all over the Internet. Even IBM was caughted red-handed placing such ads.Ttheir hiring is now being monitored by the Dept. of Justice for the next 2 years. American techies are standing up to this discrimination. A request for a class-action national-origin discrmination suit against Infosys is making its way thru the courts. If this succeeds, our nation will finally establish EEO guidelines in the tech industry for the first time in 35 years. Donna Conroy Bright Future Jobs
Dandan Shan 5 months ago
Many indians are coming to the U.S. to travel, www.tripedition.com
Vince Neil 12 months ago
Stay home Visa, you're not wanted in the U.S., enough with your job-robbing ways. H1B needs to be put to death, immediately. It's become a giant fraud operation, with nothing but con-men and liars..it's wrecking our economy and STEM professions. Stay home in india - no more visas for job-robbers
computergddess 12 months ago
Been there, done that. I was a victim of the Vision Systems scam. They brought in young, and stupid Indians to replace American workers. These H1b's were NOT subject to criminal background checks, and many stole laptops and disappeared back to India, never to be found. I am very well qualified, with advanced degrees and much experience in IT, but right now the Indians are running the show. I have made sure that young people I know stay away from It. Its not worth it due to the influx of unqualified Indians who make less than minimum wage and disappear when the going gets tough. Until legislation is passed, this will be a sub-standard field full of sub-standard people. I miss my former field, but I am doing well and wish all who work in the field much luck. The Indians have made a mockery of the field. Meanwhile, employment discrimination against U.S. talent is widespread in the tech industry, based on age, race, gender, national origin and even military status. It's so brazen, these companies place "No Americans Need Apply" job ads all over the Internet. Even IBM was caughted red-handed placing such ads.Ttheir hiring is now being monitored by the Dept. of Justice for the next 2 years. ""American techies are standing up to this discrimination. A request for a class-action national-origin discrmination suit against Infosys is making its way thru the courts. If this succeeds, our nation will finally establish EEO guidelines in the tech industry for the first time in 35 years.