In response to a recent immigration fraud in Kearny, the New Jersey United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is working with the Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, Division of Consumer Affairs, as well as immigration lawyers and various Catholic charities in order to launch a national initiative to prevent immigration scams.

Frank Argote Freyer, director of the New Jersey Latino Coalition, has seen many of the scams that target undocumented citizens, especially in many towns in Ocean and Monmouth County where the Latin population is become increasingly prevalent. He describes one of the more common scams seen as the Notarias or Notary Scam. Argote Freyre describes the scam as something that preys on the misconceptions immigrants have and exploits them.

“In Latin America, a notary is someone with a great deal of prestige and a great deal of training. In the United States, a notary has a different function. They make sure primarily that the person signing a document is the actual person.”

He  explains that fraudulent “notaries” will take money from unsuspecting immigrants, make promises about being able to expedite or ensure citizenship, only to disappear.

Argote-Freyre adds that this kind of situation also occurs with unscrupulous attorney’s who make unrealistic promises only to end up with a lot of money from their clients and no results.

“So several thousand dollars later, the immigrant walks away from this process having been ripped off and disappointed in the outcome. “

Argote-Freyre believes that the larger issue than the scams is the fact that past administrations have not made any effort to amend the system for obtaining citizenship.  He notes that post 9/11 it has become incredibly difficult to receive any kind of work visa or the like, which hurts many people who already have established long term roots in the country.

“There’s a lot of hard working people who have been in this country ten or twenty years, and they found themselves completely boxed out. That makes them ripe for all sorts of exploitation.”

Beyond financial hardship, Argote-Freyre notes that exploitation and scamming can extended into more dangerous circumstances.

“People who don’t want to pay them for their labor, landlords who don’t want to provide them with proper heating, and other safety issues and this list goes on and on.”

He notes that because of their immigration status, many of the undocumented are too afraid to report scams causing the perpetrators to go unpunished.