DENVER — The metro Denver office of the Better Business Bureau is warning immigrants to be wary of agencies that claim to provide immigration and naturalization services for a fee.
“Communities of non-English speaking people are always at a higher risk for being targets of scams,” said Dale Mingilton, president and CEO of the Denver/Boulder BBB. “Victims of immigration services scams face a huge loss of time and money because their forms are often rejected because they were filed by unauthorized service providers.”
In 2009, the BBB received several calls from Spanish-speaking consumers asking about a Colorado Springs-based company called Immigration Center, which was allegedly practicing immigration law without authorization.
The company was shut down in January 2011 and its owners were charged with several violations by the Federal Trade Commission.
The BBB offers the following tips:
– Don’t go to a notario, notario público, or a notary public for legal advice. In the U.S., notarios are not lawyers: they can’t give you legal advice or talk to government agencies for you, like the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). A notary public doesn’t have to be a lawyer either, and is not allowed to give you legal advice.
-Never pay for blank government forms. Government forms are free, though you’ll probably have to pay when you submit them to USCIS. You can get free immigration forms at www.uscis.gov/forms, by calling USCIS at 1-800-870-3676, or by visiting your local USCIS office.
– Get immigration information from U.S. government websites. Some scammers set up websites that look like they are run by the government, but they aren’t. Make sure that the website that looks like a government site is a dot gov (.gov). That means it is from the U.S. government.
– Don’t let anyone keep your original documents, like your birth certificate or passport. Scammers may keep them until you pay to get them back.
– Never sign a form before it has been filled out, or a form that has false information in it. Never sign a document that you don’t understand.
– Keep a copy of every form that you submit, as well as every letter from the government about your application or petition.
– You will get a receipt from USCIS when you turn in your paperwork. Keep it! It proves that USCIS received your application or petition. You will need the receipt to check on the status of your application, so be sure you get a copy.
Visit www.ftc.gov for more information.”