The state of Maryland has launched an education campaign to protect immigrants from scams related to their immigration status.
“Many times we see our community being victimized by people who promise them immigration papers who promise them the sky, but cannot deliver," said Gustavo Andrade with CASA de Maryland.
The problem, Andrade said, is that in Latin America, unlike in the United States, notaries are legal experts. Scam artists are taking advantage of that confusion, using their credentials as notaries to offer dubious immigration counseling.
“People want to become U.S. citizens -- want to become legal -- and anytime they see a sign or hear of someone who can offer that opportunity, they’re willing to pay a lot of money for it," said Maryland State Senator Victor Ramirez, who represents Langley Park. "On the flip side, these notarios know that.”
Maryland State Attorney Doug Gansler has launched a bilingual education campaign and a hotline to report immigration counseling abuse.
“We can identify victims, but also, we can identify the few people that are committing this fraud so we can close their operations down,” Gansler said.
Gansler said he will try to go after scammers' money so it can be returned to the victims. Brochures will be distributed to organizations that serve immigrants throughout Maryland.