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Colorado AG Coffman, Acting U.S. Attorney Troyer and Boulder County DA Garnett Announce Collaborative Effort to Protect Coloradans from Phony Immigration Consultants and Consumer Scams

Colorado law bans fraudulent immigration consultants and ‘notarios’

Denver – Today Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman was joined by Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett, and community leaders from I Drive Colorado, and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, to announce a collaborative effort to educate and empower members of Colorado’s immigrant communities to protect themselves from phony immigration consultants and other consumer scams.


While Colorado’s immigrant communities are being targeted and victimized by scammers and fraudsters, victims are not often reporting these crimes to agencies that can help.
One of the most egregious scams currently targeting immigrant communities involves individuals who claim that, for a substantial fee, they can select, prepare, and file immigration forms, speed up the visa and citizenship process, or even use some “special relationship” with U.S. immigration officials to obtain other benefits.  These individuals may call themselves an “immigration specialist,” “immigration consultant,” “visa consultant,” “notary,” “notary public,” “notario,” or “notario publico.” 


True notarios in many Latin American countries and in Europe are highly trained and regulated legal experts. This can easily cause confusion with the much narrower authority of a notary in the United States.  Predators count on the similarity in titles to mislead the public about their skill and authority to assist immigrants who are simply trying to improve their legal standing in the United States.


“I am extremely concerned about untrained persons holding themselves out as immigration consultants when they do not have the expertise or the authority to provide the proper legal assistance required to navigate through the complex federal immigration processes,” said Attorney General Coffman. “In exchange for the large sums they demand for their services, these untrained individuals actually cause great and even irreparable harm to vulnerable populations.  That is why I am working with federal, state and community leaders to reach out to Colorado’s Spanish-speaking communities and provide resources and education to help them identify and report any individuals who are preying on our immigrant population,” concluded Coffman.


In 2016, HB16-1391, which was sponsored by Representative Dan Pabon and Senator Kevin Lundberg, was signed into law, making it illegal for unauthorized people to advertise or perform services related to immigrant, non-immigrant, or citizenship status under federal immigration and naturalization laws, executive orders, or presidential proclamations. 


Under Colorado law, it is illegal for a non-attorney to:
• Advertise and offer their services as a notario publico, notario, immigration assistant, immigration consultant, immigration specialist, or other designation or title that conveys or implies in any language that he or she possesses professional legal skills or expertise in the area of immigration law;

• Accept any money or other compensation to advise or assist any person with any immigration issue, including the selection of appropriate forms or preparation of legal documents, filling out those forms or documents, or selecting an appropriate benefit, visa, or other immigration program, or determining another person’s legal or illegal status for the purpose of an immigration matter; or

• Otherwise represent another person’s interests in a judicial or administrative proceeding in an immigration matter.

“People preying upon vulnerable populations are always a great concern to the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer.  “Of even greater concern is when victims are afraid to report these crimes.  There are many legitimate notaries that can be found on an official Department of Justice website.  Be careful who you trust, and don’t be afraid to report criminals.  It is that simple.”

There are two types of individuals in Colorado that DO have the requisite skill, training, and authority to assist with immigration-related services:

• Attorneys licensed or otherwise authorized to practice law in Colorado (you can search for a licensed attorney at http://www.coloradosupremecourt.com/Search/AttSearch.asp); and

• Accredited representatives of non-profit religious, charitable, social service, or similar organizations (for a list of Colorado accredited representatives, visit https://www.justice.gov/eoir/recognized-organizations-and-accredited-representatives-roster-state-and-city)

Others may have a more limited ability to assist with immigration matters, including law students working under the direct supervision of a lawyer.

“Since 2011, we have worked to prevent crime against Boulder County’s immigrant community,” said Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett. “We are excited to partner with the Colorado Attorney General’s office, The United States Attorney for the District of Colorado and many other partners to support similar statewide efforts and to focus in particular on the problem of Notario Fraud.”

In addition to notario fraud, there are other scammers who are targeting Colorado’s immigrant community by accumulating government appointments or services and then selling them to consumers who are unaware that those appointments or services are available at no cost.

Also in 2016, HB 16-1335, which was sponsored by Representative Dan Pabon, Representative Jovan Melton, and former Senator Pat Steadman, was signed into law, making it illegal for any person to:
• reserve or obtain a government service or appointment and then to sell the service or appointment;

• reserve or obtain a government service or appointment with the intent to sell the service or appointment;

• reserve or obtain the service or appointment and then bundle that service or appointment with another good or service the person offers for sale; or

• falsely represent to a potential customer that the person has obtained or secured a service or appointment in order to sell that non-existent service or appointment.

It is NOT illegal to sell a government service or appointment where an individual has the express consent of the government entity to do so, or where the individual is selling or offering to sell information about a particular government service or appointment.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office along with many partner agencies and organizations will be holding a training to help inform and empower community members interested in learning more about scams targeting immigrant communities. For more information on attending an upcoming training, please contact oceconnects@coag.gov.

Anyone who may have been victimized by an immigration related scam or wants to report suspicious activity involving an immigration consultant, or appointment selling or service scam to file a report here or call 1-800-222-4444. The report can be filed in Spanish, and there will be a Spanish speaking operator available. Reports also can be filed anonymously.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office offers consumer information in Spanish at www.stopfraudcolorado.gov.

Copies of fact sheets on HB16-1335 and HB16-1391 in both English and Spanish are included on the righthand side of this webpage. 

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CONTACT
Annie Skinner
Colorado Attorney General’s Office
720-508-6553
Annie.Skinner@coag.gov