Immigration scams are unfortunately widespread and very often immigrants get hooked on scammers when looking for a lawyer.
To avoid fraud by lawyers and people posing as them, it is worth taking the following precautions:
1. Ask for the attorney’s full name and state bar license number. Before hiring a lawyer or paying any money, search the website of the state bar where he was allegedly licensed to find out if his license is in effect and if there have been any violations on his part.
The telephones of the bar associations in the states with the largest number of Russian-speaking immigrants are:
- California – 800-843-9053.
- New York – 212-428-28-00.
- New Jersey – 732-214-85-00.
- Florida – 1-833-FL1-WELL; 1-833-351-9355.
- Illinois – 312-726-8775; 800-678-4009.
2. If an attorney represents you in immigration matters, make sure he is licensed to practice.
3. Make a written contract and ask for receipts for payments you made.
4. Take extra care if you are asked to pay for services in cash, rather than at the office or organization.
5. Do not hire anyone to represent you who threatens to inform the federal authorities about your immigration status if you do not pay him.
6. Maintain a documentary archive of interactions with a lawyer. If you paid not from your bank account and cannot take a statement, save your cashier’s receipt; receive a receipt from a lawyer, as well as an invoice with a detailed description of the services provided to you (you have the right to demand it). And keep all these documents until the decision of the issue with which you turned to the lawyer.
Where to go if you are the victim of a scammer posing as a lawyer
People who have been the victim of immigration scams can file a legal complaint with the state’s bar association. You do not have to pay to file a complaint and you do not need to be a US citizen. The Bar Association will not ask applicants about citizenship or immigration status. The complaint form in most states is available not only in English, but also in Russian.