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Feds to warn immigrants about scams in new campaign

When people are trying to get a loved one into the country, need to bring in specialists from overseas for business, or are being detained in immigration proceeding, they often turn to the help of professionals because immigration law can be complex and is always changing.

However, it's extremely important that the "professionals" they turn to are trustworthy and are not actually scam artists. Sadly, many immigrants and family members of immigrants have been taken advantage of by criminals claiming to provide legal assistance.

This is why federal officials announced that they will be launching a campaign to warn documented and undocumented immigrants about schemes promising immigration services, such as unlicensed service providers and websites pretending to be government agencies.

One of the most common scams immigrants fall victim to is paying someone claiming to be an immigration attorney an upfront fee for legal services, and then never hearing from the person again, officials said.

Oftentimes, the scam artists call themselves "notarios," which means "lawyer" in many parts of South America, and translates to "notary" in English. Many immigrants who are taken advantage of by the scam are afraid to come forward for fear of being deported, so the criminals go free.

In effort to help prevent these and other scams against immigrants, the Federal Trade Commission opened a database of more than 6 million consumer fraud complaints, which should help if immigrants who have been victimized feel comfortable enough to file a report.

Officials also plan to use ads, posters and fliers published in English and Spanish to spread the word to immigrants. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website will also have information available in 12 additional languages.

Source: The Star-Ledger, "Federal officials announce campaign to educate undocumented residents on immigration scams," Julia Terruso, Dec. 2, 2011

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