As part of our continuing effort to protect the rights of immigrants, we have created a list of 14 things that you can do to help protect yourself from fraud. We constantly hear of immigrants who have had their money stolen, by people who were posing as an attorney . Usually, they either submitted the incorrect documents, or simply took the person’s money and did not file anything at all. If you have any doubts about the person you are hiring to help you with your case, this list will help you avoid these problems.
Remember, it is not just your fee that is at stake. As a result of poor advice, people are often required to wait longer, pay additional costs, and may even be deported.
14 Ways to Protect Yourself from Fraud
- Ask for references. Anyone who can’t give you a list of happy clients probably has a list of unhappy clients.
- Get it in writing. You should get a contract stating exactly what the person is going to do and how much money you will pay for those services
- Get a receipt. Many immigrants pay with cash. If you don’t have something in writing, it’s like you’ve never paid. Clients are always surprised at “how nice they seemed”, in the beginning.
- Be suspicious of anyone who charges significantly less money, claims to “have connections”, or makes a lot of promises.
- Make copies of all your important documents to give to the person. Keep all of the originals for your own records.
- Don’t sign your name on blank forms.
- Don’t sign any forms with false information on them. You will very likely be making your problems worse.
- Report anyone who offers their services with any “secret law”
- Always ask for proof that forms have been filed. You should be able to get a copy or some form of receipt.
- Walk away from anyone who offers to “get you a spouse” for an additional fee. This is illegal and will also get you into more trouble.
- Ask lots of questions. If the person really knows what they’re talking about, they should have no problems answering all of your questions.
- Make sure the person is barred and licensed to practice law. Find out what state the person is barred in. Go to google and type in “*whatever state* state bar association” to check. If the person is not barred, they can only translate and help you fill out the forms you bring them. If they offer you legal advice, you should report them to the State Attorney General or District Attorney. A google search will help you locate these folks also.
- Stay informed. You have the right to know what is happening with your case.
- If you have been taken advantage of, send us your story so we can post it on our website or newsletter. You can help spread the message and warn others. We like to have your name (and even a photo), but we understand some people’s need for privacy, so we also accept anonymous letters.
Remember, just because you are not a citizen does NOT mean you have no rights! Know your rights. Protect yourself. Protect your family.