Last month, Loma International Business Group in Baltimore was shut down for charging immigrants for filing immigration forms that the group was not authorized to file. Spanish speaking immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador lost money to this business by trusting them to file their immigration forms in order to gain a legal immigrant status in the United States. The company claimed they were authorized to perform such duties when in fact they were not, making it illegal for them to be charging money for their services.
"Immigrants who speak little to no English can often be easy prey for unscrupulous businesses," said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau | Greater Maryland. "Some operators have even posed as government agents to lure victims."
In another case from earlier this year, a fabricated immigration company developed an Internet scam that collected fees from immigrants ranging from $200 to $2,500. According to published reports, promised services were never performed.
In the wake of recent scams, the FTC has created educational materials for immigrants who speak English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean. The tools can help immigrants educate themselves on avoiding immigration scams and provide them with means to file FTC complaints and report suspected scams or fraud.
BBB offers some tips to persons looking to obtain legal status in the U.S. while avoiding common scams:
- Never sign blank documents or documents that contain inaccurate information.
- Always retain your original documents and only provide photocopies if necessary.
- Do not make online payments or send money to someone who is not a licensed attorney.
- Make copies of every document you prepare and submit for your own records.
- Request a receipt as proof of payment.
- Check the Maryland Bar Association for referrals on licensed attorneys practicing immigration services and find help from the FTC.
- Read up on materials provided by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services that can help you obtain your citizenship.