While Spanish-speaking immigrants are the most well-known targets of “Notario Publico” fraud, they aren’t the only victims. State law enforcement officials warn that any immigrant group can be targeted by con artists offering phony immigration services.
Notaries must always follow state laws regulating immigration services and must avoid improper advertising of services in any language. Some states, such as California and New York, prohibit the use of the Spanish title “Notario Publico” in ads — a term commonly used in immigration service scams — as well as any foreign term that falsely implies that the advertiser is an authorized immigration service provider.
Victims of scam artists who pose as phony immigration attorneys or consultants have been found in every immigrant community in Washington state, according to a statement by Assistant Attorney General Pedro Bernal.
“These providers charge consumers thousands and thousands of dollars for a service they aren’t authorized to give and for legal advice they aren’t qualified to provide,” Bernal said. “It’s a very sad situation when you see someone pay $5,000 for assistance on an immigration issue when a lawyer would charge less … and probably obtain the benefit that this person deserves under the law.”
In January 2011, the Federal Trade Commission shut down a Colorado firm offering unauthorized immigration assistance to persons from Haiti, Canada, Mexico, Ethiopia and several Asian countries. The firm misrepresented itself by using deceptive Web sites and other tactics designed to make it appear as if it was part of the U.S. government, according to the FTC. For more information, see the NNA’s Web page focusing on the difference between U.S. Notaries and “Notarios.”