With a new presidential administration in place, many changes are impacting immigrants and their family members throughout California. Changing laws, new enforcement procedures and an increased focus on deportation has heightened the fears of many. Unfortunately, this fear breeds opportunists who would seek to take advantage of vulnerable populations in our state and throughout the U.S.
Scam artists are targeting immigrants with schemes that prey on their desperation to remain in this country and avoid being separated from their children and other loved ones. These unscrupulous individuals typically pose as legal consultants and/or lawyers, charging hefty fees and making false promises. Spreading awareness of these scams is vital in preventing you or someone you care about from becoming a victim of this type of fraud.
Immigration Protection Scams
Fraudsters are luring marks in with lies and false claims. They frequently pose as professionals in the field, despite the lack of any real credentials. Many claim to be notary publics to confuse Latino immigrants accustomed to notaries publicos, who have a much more involved role in Mexico, similar to that of an attorney.
Some of these scammers contact their targets via phone, claiming to be federal immigration officials and demanding money. Others pose as consultants or attorneys, pretending to help for a fee. The following are examples of some of their most common cons.
- Misrepresentation as a lawyer with no license to practice law
- Identifying as an immigrant consultant without accreditation
- Soliciting “clients” with false promises to help obtain legal status and avoid deportation
- Providing misinformation about available immigration relief and eligibility
- Improper completion of essential immigration forms and claiming filings falsely
Though legitimate immigration consultants can help some foreign residents with their legal status in the U.S., it’s far more advisable to seek the legal consultation of an immigration lawyer with experience and knowledge of both federal and state immigration law.
Other tips to avoid immigration scams and fraudsters include the following:
- Beware of upfront fees, especially when the individual is promising sweeping results.
- Obtain legal references from community legal aid and immigration advocacy groups or from friends and family members who’ve had a successful experience with a legal immigration professional.
- Pay with a cashier’s check or personal check instead of cash to establish a paper trail.
- Don’t trust someone who tells you they can help you because they have personal influence with government agencies or authorities.
- Insist on proof of documentation filing.
- Report suspected fraud to the State Bar of California immigration hotline at 866-879-4532.
Despite the heightened fear regarding immigration status in the U.S., there are a number of legal, effective paths to lawful residency. Don’t allow a scam artist to trick or terrorize you into unlawful or ineffective action. Turn to a skilled and reputable immigration lawyer instead.