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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > December 2022 > Need help with immigration issues? Be wary of scammers posing as lawyers

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Need help with immigration issues? Be wary of scammers posing as lawyers

Do you or someone you know need help understanding and working with the U.S. immigration system? If so, be wary of “notarios.” These are individuals who represent themselves as qualified to offer legal advice about immigration but, in fact, have no such qualification. Taking legal advice from notarios – some of whom might call themselves immigration consultants or immigration experts -- has led to problems that include incorrectly filed forms and missed deadlines, and worse. There have been cases where notarios have charged clients thousands of dollars and then abandoned them. In short, turning to notarios for legal advice can have devastating consequences that could ultimately prevent an individual from gaining admittance to the United States.

Whether from notarios or others who might take advantage of them, immigrants and their families are vulnerable to scams. Keep these tips in mind:
  • Don’t go to a notario, notario publico, or notary public for legal advice.
  • Never pay for blank government forms. Government forms are free, though you’ll probably have to pay a fee when you submit them. You can get free forms at, by calling the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) at 800-870-3676, or by visiting your nearest USCIS office.
  • Get immigration information from official U.S. government websites. Make sure the website ends in “.gov,” meaning it is a U.S. government site.
  • Don’t let anyone keep your original documents, such as birth certificate or passport.
  • Never sign a form that has not been filled out, that contains false information or that you don’t understand.
  • Keep a copy of every form that you submit and every letter you receive from the government.
  • Contact the Ohio State Bar Association for information on immigration attorneys in your area. Another resource for low-income consumers may be their local Legal Aid.
  • Ask to see credentials. Work with an attorney licensed to practice law or an accredited representative capable of handling your immigration matters.
If you are the victim of an immigration scam:
  • Contact your county prosecutor’s office or county department of consumer affairs.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission here.
  • Report it to the Ohio Attorney General at 800-282-0515.                                                                                                                                                                            
Those looking for a job or business opportunity are often targeted by scammers. The Federal Trade Commission has released a publication “Fatima Says No to an Income Scam” that details specific money-making opportunity scams specifically targeting immigrants. Money-making opportunity scams entice people interested in working from home to purchase a number of items that they can then sell for a big profit. These products tend to be very difficult to sell leaving the person in debt with no real prospect of selling the products they have purchased.

If you are considering a money-making opportunity:
  • Research the company: Use resources such as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau, and do an online search for the company’s name along with terms such as “scam” or “complaint.”
  • Ask a friend:  If you know someone who has worked selling products directly to consumers, ask them about their experience.
  • Avoid high pressure tactics:  If the company is pressuring you for an immediate confirmation of employment or financial commitment, reconsider working with that company.
If you need help addressing a consumer problem or question, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.