By Patricia Uceda, Spring 2015 Graduate Research Assistant
Today’s headlines usually wind up as tomorrow’s scams, as we’ve seen in the past with natural disasters, diseases, and Medicare open season. The FTC has caught onto this trend, and so with immigration news dominating the headlines, they are hoping to pre-emptively stop consumers involved in the immigration process from getting scammed.
If you’re in the immigration process, here’s some tips to keep in mind:
- Get help from those authorized to help you: Getting help from someone who is not qualified to give you legal advice can be worse than not getting any help at all. Immigration lawyers are usually a good bet, although you may also choose to get help from an “accredited representative.” Accredited representatives are people who are authorized by the U.S. government to help you with your immigration-related questions. You can find an accredited representative by visiting this state-by-state list of accredited representatives organized by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
- Avoid Those Who Claim to Guarantee Legal Status (For a Fee): Immigration scammers commonly refer to themselves as “notarios” or immigration consultants. These people will often guarantee legal status, or a higher place in line to get legal status, in exchange for a hefty fee. They will claim to have some sort of special relationship with the government that will guarantee you results. These notarios are usually not lawyers in the United States and are not allowed to give legal advice. Ask anyone you work with whether they are a lawyer licensed to practice law or an accredited representatives before giving them any money or agreeing to work with them.
- Stop and Check Before Paying: You should never have to pay for blank government forms; these are free, and you can get free immigration forms here. In addition, never pay for the promise of legal status. No one can guarantee you legal status, and if they are claiming to, there’s a high chance that they are a scammer.
If you need additional immigration help, go here. In addition, if you or someone you know has seen an immigration scam or been the victim of it, go to ftc.gov/complaint (or call 1-877-382-4357) to leave a complaint. You can also contact the attorney general of your state.