Scam Watch: Notario Fraud

February 05, 2010
Living in southern Arizona, you know that the immigration debate is often at the forefront of news reports and discussions.  Worried about breaking immigration laws, many immigrants are hurriedly seeking legal status; but while trying to avoid hassles many are running into bigger ones.  

Some immigrants are being scammed through Notario Fraud.  In the United States, a notary public is authorized to certify the validity of documents and witness signature of forms without formal legal training.  In Latin America, a public notary or ‘notario’ who possesses the equivalent of a law license may provide legalization services.  

Issues arise when individuals obtain a notary license in the U.S. and then tout their status to immigrants elsewhere who believe the title represents services beyond witnessing signatures.

Notario fraudsters, immigration consultants, or immigration experts claim they are authorized to represent immigrants in US courts and before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for a fee.  If you work with an unlicensed notario, you risk incomplete paperwork being submitted, missed submission deadlines, or false claims that can result in your deportation or the inability to obtain legal residency.  Fees for notario services can range from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands.   

Prior to working with a notario, ask to see their credentials to ensure they are licensed to practice law or if they are an accredited representative capable of representing you in immigration matters.  Ask if you will have to pay for court notices and documents and obtain a written contract outlining the services being provided and the cost.  Be wary if you are asked to sign blank forms.  If you believe you are a victim of notario fraud, contact Southern Arizona Legal Aid at (520) 620-9465 or The Lawyer Referral Service at (520) 623-4625.