Attorney General Bob Ferguson, state Representative Luis Moscoso, D-1st Legislative District, and state Senator-elect Pramila Jayapal, D-37th Legislative District, today issued a consumer alert to Washingtonians about possible scams targeting immigrants and their families.
Scammers often prey on consumers seeking immigration assistance in the wake of major changes to United States immigration policy. With the changes announced in President Barack Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions on Nov. 20, 2014, the Attorney General’s Office wants consumers to beware. Only licensed attorneys or federally accredited representatives should provide such legal advice or services.
“Consumers seeking immigration assistance should be on watch and avoid scammers who advertise themselves as a ‘notario’ or ‘notario público’ but have no legal training in immigration affairs,” said Ferguson. “My office will prosecute these scammers that seek to hurt Washington residents and their families.”
“Many of Washington’s immigrant families have made great sacrifices in order to build better lives for themselves in the United States,” said Moscoso. “It is critical that they receive the full protection of our legal system against these malicious notario schemes, so that they may have a chance to realize their American Dream.”
“Many families across the state of Washington are naturally anxious to see if they qualify for the president’s recent executive actions on immigration, so they can finally come out of the shadows and be a full part of society,” said Jayapal. “However, it is important that people understand that it is not yet possible to apply for the program. I urge families to ensure they receive information about the program only from trusted sources so that unscrupulous notarios do not take advantage of people’s hope.”
In several Latin American countries, the term “notario público” refers to an individual who has received extensive legal training over the course of several years.
In the United States, a “notary public” is an individual who has the authority to administer an oath or affirmation or witness the signing of papers. No legal training is required to obtain this title.
Scammers use this linguistic similarity to deceive Spanish-speaking consumers into thinking that they are experts in immigration law. They then pocket fees, without providing proper assistance.
Don’t be deceived by a person described as a “notario” or “notario público.” He or she is likely a notary public with no legal skills or qualifications. These individuals may take your money but not file the proper papers and hurt your chance to immigrate.
Do not agree to pay anyone for legal advice or assistance in an immigration matter until you confirm that he or she is a licensed attorney or federally accredited representative authorized to provide such services.
Signs it’s a notario scam
Washington’s consumer protection laws protect everyone who lives in our state. The Attorney General’s Office is here to help all consumers. We will not ask about your immigration status. Notify the Attorney General’s Office if you were in contact with someone who:
- Advertised as a “notario público,” “notario,” immigration assistant, consultant or specialist.
- Charged you a fee for referring you to an immigration attorney.
- Charged you a fee for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services forms, or to file the forms.
- Asked you to sign a form that contained false information.
- Proposed they can “find” you a sponsor or spouse to get you a green card.
If you believe you have been a victim of immigration services fraud, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at www.atg.wa.gov (http://atg.wa.gov/EnEspanol.aspx) or call 1-800-551-4636 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays.
- Verify whether someone is an attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Washington by visiting the Lawyer Directory at www.mywsba.org.
- Determine whether a person or organization is a federally accredited representative at www.justice.gov/eoir/ra/raroster_orgs_reps_state_city.htm.
· Find an immigration lawyer at www.ailalawyer.com.
- Learn how to avoid and report immigration services fraud, and how to find legitimate no-cost or low-cost immigration advice from authorized providers at the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov/immigration.
- Learn more about notarios and their illegal tactics, including information on how to spot a fraudulent immigration services provider by visiting the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s website at www.stopnotariofraud.com.
- Find additional information for immigrants and refugees at http://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/issues/immigration.
- Check the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website for updates on the president’s executive actions on immigration http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction.