In California, it is a crime to practice law or give legal advice without being a licensed attorney. Unfortunately, there are people who target immigrant communities claiming to be attorneys by using the title “notario.” These unscrupulous individuals take your money, do nothing, or file the wrong paperwork and are often never heard from again. Here are some steps you can take to prevent becoming a victim of notario fraud:
• Be suspicious of anyone who demands cash payment up front. This is a big red flag.
• Be suspicious of individuals claiming to know someone who helped them with an immigration or other legal problem. Oftentimes, they are working together with the “notario” to target more victims.
• Do not give any money or personal identifying information to someone claiming to be an attorney/notario without first checking to see if they are a licensed attorney. Ask for a business card and their California State Bar Number. If they refuse, walk away. You can check if someone is a licensed attorney on the California State Bar’s website at calbar.ca.gov by entering their name under “Look Up a Lawyer.”
• You can find licensed attorneys who specialize in immigration law or other areas by contacting the Ventura County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service at (805) 650-7599 or through their website: https://www.vcba.org/public-lawyer-referral/. • The California State Bar also provides information on their website for those who need legal help: https://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Need-Legal-Help.