Immigrants Face Uptick Of Attempted Fraud

Just as when the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked four months ago on the White House’s hopes to enact large-scale immigration reforms, the recent presidential election has left millions of immigrants uncertain about their status making them potential targets for fraudsters. 

This afternoon, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — in concert with a number of immigration advocates — issued a fraud alert, warning all consumers about the possible increased risk of immigration fraud.

“It is not a secret that in the last few weeks we’ve seen intense fear in many immigrant communities,” Schneiderman said during a news conference. “Frightened, desperate people are the number one targets of scammers.”

According to Schneiderman, advocates in New York have seen a surge in calls in recent weeks from area residents concerned about their families and their finances. The Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights says it has experienced a 266% increase in the number of calls it receives each day, while walk-ins have soared by 250%.

In fact, the past two weeks has seen a significant increase in the number of calls to immigration organizations. For example, the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights has received an 266% increase in number of daily calls and 250% increase in number of daily walk-ins.

Angela Fernandez, Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, said during the conference that for immigrants it is a very uncertain time.

“During times of uncertainty, fraudsters prey on the fears of the most vulnerable, peddling hope and false promises,” said the coalition’s Executive Director Angela Fernandez, noting that many of these scams have the power to destroy lives.

Although immigrants can be targeted by a number of schemes, Schneiderman says his office is has often hearing of one that involves unsolicited calls from fake immigration officials.

In one case, an immigrant living in New York received a call from a number that appeared to belong to a legitimate government immigration office. However, the caller was a con artist who accused the man of being in the country illegally and told him me must pay $1,550 immediately.

The man, who did provide personal financial information to the caller, became wary, hung up and reported the indigent to the AG’s office.

“Please remember law enforcement agencies will never demand immediate payment over the phone or by email. if you get a call, hang it up immediately, and report it to us,” Schneiderman said.

The AG’s alert also provided information on other immigration scams perpetrated by fraudsters, including the notario scheme.

As we’ve covered before, scammers within many Spanish-speaking immigrant communities take advantage of the confusion between the Spanish term “notario público” – meaning a highly trained legal professional – and the English “notary public” – meaning a licensed official with witnessing duties. Fraudsters, some of whom aren’t even notary publics, will pose as notarios, charging money for legal services and immigration advice they aren’t qualified or allowed to provide.

For example, a notario who may be doing some kind of document preparation or tax services could tell an individual that they could handle immigration authorization.

Other schemes targeting immigrants currently include individuals misrepresenting legal credentials, and fraudulently promising to expedite immigration credentials.

Schneiderman also called an uptick in affinity fraud “despicable.” Affinity fraud involves members of the same community or ethnic group targeting their own community members, making them feel comfortable before offering nonexistent service for a price.

For now, Schneiderman says that figures and calls are coming to his office too quickly to compile statistics since the election. He hopes to provide that infestation in the future.

Schneiderman, along with the advocates, provided consumer with three key tips to avoid getting scammed:
• Only work with a licensed lawyer or an authorized provider.
• Never sign blank applications or documents you do not understand.
• Do not make payments over the phone or via email.

Those who believe they have been approached by a fraudster or have fallen victim to a scheme are urged to contact the Attorney General’s Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline at (866) 390-2992 or email

Additional resources can be found Attorney General’s website, including Know Your Rights: Immigration Services Fraud and Don’t Be a Victim of Immigration Fraud brochure.

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