Attorney General Gansler Unveils Campaign Against Immigration Consulting Fraud
Education is the key to protecting immigrants seeking "to do the right thing"
MD ( Oct. 24, 2011) - Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today joined with civic leaders and community organizations in Langley Park to unveil a new public awareness campaign aimed at preventing Marylanders from falling prey to immigration consulting fraud. Organizations participating in the campaign include Casa de Maryland, Catholic Charities of Baltimore and the League of United Latin American Citizens Maryland.
“People seeking immigration services and advice are trying to do the right thing in pursuit of becoming American citizens,” said Attorney General Gansler. “This type of fraud often victimizes those who have little money to lose. You can avoid it by locating a licensed attorney or an accredited representative who can provide safe, effective and legal assistance.”
The Maryland Office of the Attorney General (OAG) designed brochures (“Are You a Victim of Immigration Consultant Fraud?”) and flyers (“Don't Be a Victim of Immigration Fraud”) for distribution by community groups, churches, civic organizations and charities. Published in English and Spanish, they outline how to avoid being exploited and where to turn for legitimate immigration services.
The materials and resources can be found by going to the Attorney General's website or clicking on http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/immFraud/index.html for the English version. A Spanish version is located at http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/immFraud/esp_index.html.
At the news conference this morning, OAG staff also gave a PowerPoint overview of what is available to any organization or group seeking to educate individuals and protect them from immigration consultant fraud.
In Maryland and across the United States, unlicensed and unaccredited “consultants” prey on sometimes desperate people attempting to clarify their legal status as they seek citizenship. While such fraud often goes unreported out of fear and distrust, state and federal authorities have successfully pursued several cases. The OAG took action in one such case last June: Attorney General Gansler Takes Action Against Deceptive Immigration Consultants.
Excerpts from the presentation Understanding Immigration Consultant Fraud - How to Protect Yourself and Your Opportunity for Citizenship
Immigration Consultant Fraud
- In the United States, a notario, visa consultant or licensiado is not a lawyer and cannot provide legal services concerning immigration or citizenship.
- In addition to licensed attorneys, there are many legitimate community and religious organizations that provide immigration-related services.
- Fraudulent immigration consultants could take your money without ever planning to file the documentation you need to seek citizenship.
- If you are the victim of immigration consultant fraud, you could be subject to many consequences, including deportation, and possibly lose the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen. Protect yourself by knowing your rights!
How to Spot Notario Fraud
- Individuals who advertise as notarios have no legal authority to provide immigration services.
- Be suspicious if you are asked to sign documents that are blank, contain false information or that you don't understand.
- Be wary when an individual requests payment before performing any services or asks for more money than already agreed upon.
Choose the Right Help
- Immigration consultants must be licensed attorneys or accredited representatives.
- Ask for a consultant's credentials and references (former clients) to contact about previous services provided.
- Demand a written contract of representation from your consultant and review it carefully.
- You have a right to rescind or cancel this contract within 72 hours (3 days) of signing it.
Who Can You Trust?
- Make sure the immigration consultant you are working with is licensed to provide services. You can do so through the :
- Maryland Client Protection Fund (410-685-7878 or 1-800-492-1964)
- American Immigration Lawyers Association (1-800-954-0254)
- U.S. Department of Justice (202-514-2000)
- Various community organizations in your area
To file a complaint by phone: Call the Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division Mediation Unit hotline at 410-528-8662, 410-230-1712(Spanish) or 1-888-743-0023.
To file a complaint by mail: Mail a copy to Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, Attn: Mediation Unit, 200 Saint Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202.
Attach copies of relevant documents (keep originals).
To file a complaint over the Internet go to www.oag.state.md.us - Click on “Quick Link” for “File a Consumer Complaint” on the right hand side of the website and follow the instructions.