When there are big changes that lead to confusion, scammers prosper. Pretty much always. So, as Title 42, the pandemic-era law related to immigration, expired last week, the resulting “what happens next” will almost certainly lead to notarios hoping to ride that question all the way to the bank. So how do you stop them?
First, know this: notarios (also called notaries or notarios públicos) in the U.S. are not licensed attorneys. They can’t give you legal advice. But that won’t stop some crooked ones from saying they can help you or promising you results. Those, however, are lies. They’ll cost you not only your money, but possibly your chance to immigrate lawfully.
To avoid the scams that target immigrants, check out ftc.gov/immigration. Then:
- Know who can help. Some specialized lawyers and accredited representatives can help people with immigration. Don’t go to a notario for immigration or legal help.
- Don’t pay for forms. Official immigration forms from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are free. Anyone who tries to charge you is a scammer.
- Don’t sign blank forms. Or any form that has info that’s not true. Dishonest notarios might ask you to do that, and it’s a guarantee of trouble. It also guarantees that someone is only after your money.
- There’s no special access. Nobody can guarantee they’ll get you a Green Card or citizenship. Nobody can get you on a special list or get early access to any secret process. Those are lies that will cost you money and, very likely, your chance to immigrate lawfully.
Look, the people who need this information aren’t reading this post. So: If you know people who work with the immigrant community, who are in legal services organizations, who work for cities where immigrants are arriving, who help refugee and immigrant communities in any way: please share. And if you spot a notario taking advantage of immigrants, tell the FTC: ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
– Jennifer Leach is associate director of the Division of Consumer and Business Education at the Federal Trade Commission.