Notary Bulletin

Secretary of State To Crack Down On Illegal Advertising To Immigrant Communities

The New York Secretary of State will begin canvassing immigrant neighborhoods this December in search of Notaries who fail to comply with its new administrative rule — the state’s latest move aimed at reducing immigration service fraud.

The rule, which goes into effect on December 11, requires Notaries who advertise in a foreign language to post a disclaimer stating they are not licensed to practice law or face a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, loss of their commission and other possible sanctions imposed by the Attorney General’s office. The disclaimer must be posted in both English and the language common to the immigrant population they serve.

Deputy Secretary of State Marcos Vigil told Newsday that the agency is conducting the crackdown because exploiting misperceptions about the Notary office is “unlawful, and these individuals are targeting vulnerable immigrants.”

The Secretary of State was authorized to issue the new rule by a sweeping law passed in late 2011 designed to crack down on immigration services fraud. It also stipulates that Notaries may not give advice about immigration or other legal matters or accept fees for giving legal advice.

Much of the attention regarding immigration service fraud has focused on the misuse of the Spanish term Notario Publico to con unsuspecting immigrants from Hispanic countries. But the New York rule applies to any foreign language advertising and provides translations of the disclaimer into several languages, including Chinese, Korean and Haitian Creole.

New York has joined the federal government, numerous states, the National Notary Association and consumer organizations in a nationwide campaign to protect consumers from immigration-related scams and the unauthorized practice of law.

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