New York Cracks Down on Notario Fraud

The New York Department of State (DOS) recently announced the adoption of new regulations for notaries public aimed at protecting the public from unscrupulous notaries who use their title to commit fraud and cheat people by posing as immigration professionals and attorneys. The DOS oversees the commissioning and enforcement of the notary public occupation. “For a long time now, con-artists have been hiding behind the veil of the notary public occupation to commit egregious acts of fraud and victimize thousands of people in our state. These new regulations will put the brakes on immigration scammers and expose these bad actors”, stated Secretary of State Perales. “New York State can finally look forward to the day when the notario fraud reference is no longer part of its lexicon.” Quite often, immigrants seek immigration assistance by contracting with a notary public. Because the word for notary public in some languages implies that the individual is an attorney, some hold themselves out as qualified to help immigrants obtain lawful status, or able to perform legal functions such as drafting wills or other legal documents when they are not authorized to do so. Many times, these fraudsters charge excessive fees for services that are never provided. At times, victims are so damaged by these con artists that they permanently lose out on important immigration opportunities. The new regulations will prohibit notaries public from advertising their services using foreign language terms that falsely represent or imply that the notary public is an attorney authorized to practice law, or authorized to provide immigration advice. The new regulations require notaries public who use foreign language to advertise their services to include the following disclaimer in their advertisement, “I am not an attorney licensed to practice law and may not give legal advice about immigration or any other legal matter or accept fees for legal advice.” The adoption of these regulations will provide stronger consumer protection to immigrant communities and they are especially timely given the recent reports of scammers targeting young people who are eligible to be considered for relief from removal from the country and eligible to apply for work authorization through the new federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program. The regulations will be effective three months after the notice of adoption. Notaries found to have violated the new regulation could face the revocation or suspension of their notary commission or the imposition of a fine of up to $1,000 per violation. The case may also be referred to the Attorney General’s office for further action.

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