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Beware of con artists, fraud when seeking immigration help

One constant truth about immigration disputes and the law in general is that the individuals who are dealing with the immigration issue need to seek professional legal help. We don't just say that because it sounds nice -- we say it because, more than most other areas of law, a botched immigration proceeding or an issue that is torpedoed by a scam artist (or some other form of fraudulent activity) can absolutely devastate a family.

Matters of immigration are also ripe for fraudulent activity or scammers, because many potential victims are in a vulnerable spot in their lives and have few places to turn if things go poorly.

Consider the story of a man from Honduras who entered the U.S. in an unauthorizied way. He was trying to bail out a friend who was about to face serious immigration penalties. This man trusted another man who claimed to be very helpful with immigration matters -- all he had to do is give this new guy $4,000 and everything would be fine.

After the money exchanged hands, the bail was never posted. The man's friend was deported.

How do you prevent this sort of thing? Well, any undocumented person who is trying to establish himself or herself in the U.S., or any U.S. citizen looking to sponsor a family member for a visa, needs to know that scammers and con artists are out there. When you seek professional help for your immigration matter, ask tons of questions and request that the professional provide proof of his or her credentials. If the supposed professional is requesting money up front -- usually in large amounts -- be skeptical.

If the worst case happens and you are indeed scammed, you will want to secure an attorney immediately so that you can deal with the criminal activity, as well as the headache-inducing immigration problems the fraud may have caused.

Rest assured, things can work themselves out. In the case of the Honduran man, he sought an attorney and eventually tracked down the scammer, who was then sentenced to two years in jail. The man also won a civil lawsuit against the con artist.

Source: NPR, "Consumer Groups On The Lookout For Immigration Scams," Hansi Lo Wang, July 31, 2013

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