Fresno County Works to Fight Back Against Scammers Targeting Immigrants
Scammers are everywhere these days, but Fresno County is experiencing an increase in reports of scams that target immigrants. The county is working on spreading awareness and helping residents learn how to avoid these harmful scams.
While the San Joaquin Valley has low rates of reported fraud cases, Thomas Dahdouh of the FTC explains that these numbers can be misleading.
“Hispanics were two-and-a-half times as likely to have experienced debt-related fraud than non-Hispanic whites,” explains Dahdouh, “and we know that debt-related fraud is often the most pernicious and harmful because it’s affecting folks’ last dollars. Overall, our data shows that Latinos report fraud at a rate of 40 percent less than the general population, and many Latinos are new immigrants.”
In an area like the San Joaquin Valley, where about 41 percent of the population is Latino, many fraud cases likely go unreported for various reasons. Victims may face language barriers, be unfamiliar with US laws, or might have concerns about contacting authorities.
Unfortunately, scammers often target Latino immigrants who are new to the US and are not knowledgeable about immigration laws. One common scam occurs when an “immigration consultant” or someone who claims to be an immigration lawyer (but is not one) promises to help an immigrant file paperwork to stay in the US or pursue citizenship. The immigrant usually believes they are filing the appropriate paperwork and doing everything by the book. But in reality, the scammer either does nothing at all or files incorrect paperwork – often after charging the immigrant thousands of dollars.
Fresno immigration attorney Deepak Ahluwalia has assisted many clients working to remedy the damage caused by these scammers.
“What breaks my heart is that a lot of the clients that I’ve met have similar stories about attorneys taking their money, not doing work, or perhaps promising something they’re not eligible for,” he says.
Often he sees asylum scams, where a fake attorney promises an immigrant they can file an asylum application (for a hefty fee) even if that individual is not eligible for asylum. Unfortunately, this can have long-reaching consequences for the victim, who believes they are acting in accordance with immigration laws.
“That starts a whole slew of other legal problems,” says Ahluwalia. “We’re talking being permanently banned from any immigration benefits because that is the law if you do file a frivolous asylum application.”
Sabrina Ashjian, a deputy district attorney for Fresno County, says the county is working to combat these scams and help spread awareness, particularly among the population of recent immigrants who are most likely to be targeted.
“We have more deputy district attorneys as well as investigators that are pursuing these crimes, and with that, we can go to a lot more community events and meet with community leaders and get a sense from the public of what’s taking place out there,” Ashjian explains.
She adds that anyone who witnesses or has information about a fraud case should call the district attorney’s office or the FTC to report the scam.
Get Real Help with Your Immigration Case
Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law and its lead attorney Deepak Ahluwalia are trusted immigration attorneys who can assist you with your immigration case. Whether you need help with asylum, permanent residency, difficulties with a work visa, or beginning the path to citizenship, Mr. Ahluwalia is available for a free consultation to answer questions and explain your options. He has been interviewed by major news sources, including the BBC, CNN, The Guardian, and many others.