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Nonattorney Notaries Must Obey Laws Regulating Foreign Language Ads

Con artists often advertise using the Spanish title “Notario Publico” or other foreign-language equivalents to pretend they can offer legal advice to immigrants. Because of this, nonattorney Notaries must always strictly adhere to state laws when advertising notarial services in other languages.

In Latin American countries, a “Notario” performs duties similar to attorneys — which is why the title is often used to mislead immigrants victims by persons who charge exorbitant fees for unauthorized and often ineffective legal services. Because of this, many states limit how Notaries can advertise to customers who do not speak English, in order to deter scams targeting immigrants.

The federal government announced earlier this summer it is cracking down on “Notario” related fraud targeting immigrants. If you work in the legal profession, be aware that immigrants may misunderstand your role as a Notary and ask you for legal assistance that you are not authorized to give — and you must turn down any requests for services Notaries in your state aren’t permitted to provide.

Also be sure to follow all state laws regulating advertising of Notary services in foreign languages. California and New York not only prohibit the use of the Spanish title “Notario Publico” in ads — a term commonly used in immigration service scams — but any foreign term that falsely implies that the advertiser is an authorized immigration service provider. Some states, like Arizona, require nonattorney Notaries advertising in foreign languages to display disclaimers in English and other languages that they are not lawyers and may not provide legal or immigration advice.

For more information, see this Web page on the difference between U.S. Notaries and “Notarios.”

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