Some families of Central American child migrants living in the U.S. have received phone calls from scammers who tried to get money in exchange for false promises of reuniting parents with their children, according to government officials from El Salvador.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol from October to May along the U.S. border with Mexico. Most of those children are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Federal law requires that children be transferred to the Health and Human Services Department after Border Patrol processes the minors. Once under HHS custody, many children and teens go to temporary shelters.
Consulate officials from the children’s home countries work with the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement to reunite children with parents or relatives in the U.S.
Some of those families in the U.S. have received a call “from someone saying ‘we have your son here about to board a plane to go meet with you, but we need you to deposit money to this account in order for your child to be sent to you,” said José Joaquin Chacón, consul for El Salvador in Tucson.
There have been no official reports of scams, but the consulates of El Salvador and Guatemala have received complaints from families in the U.S.
“We have emphasized to parents and guardians not to answer phone calls about reunification with family and to be careful because it’s a scam if there is money involved,” Chacón said in Spanish.
Spanish-language media reported similar scams are happening in California.