Attorney General's Office warns of notario scams

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) - Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and the Bureau of Consumer Protection are warning Nevada residents to be on the alert for notario scams. These scams often take advantage of unsuspecting people looking for immigration assistance and other legal issues.

While Notaries Public or “Notario Publico” may perform duties of attorneys in Spanish-speaking countries, those in the United States are not allowed to practice law, give legal advice or accept fees for legal advice. Notaries may provide only specific services, including taking an acknowledgement, administering an oath or affirmation, executing a jurat or taking a verification upon oath or affirmation, witnessing or attesting a signature, certifying or attesting a copy, and noting a protest of a negotiable instrument. The term “Notario Publico” is not recognized in the United States, and non-attorneys are not authorized to assist with legal-related matters.

“In Nevada, attorneys are regulated by the State Bar of Nevada to ensure they meet professional and ethical standards when servicing clients,” says Laxalt. “Before engaging anyone for legal assistance, I encourage Nevadans to use state-provided resources to ensure the individual is properly licensed or certified.”

Notaries public are appointed and regulated by the Secretary of State and must follow certain statutory requirements. In addition, notaries may only charge fees for the following services:

• For taking an acknowledgment, for the first signature of each signer: $5

• For each additional signature of each signer: $2.50

• For administering an oath or affirmation without a signature: $2.50

• For a certified copy: $2.50

• For a jurat, for each signature on the affidavit: $5

• For performing a marriage ceremony: $75

Notaries may also charge a fee if travel is required; however, that fee is disclosed in advance. Translation services are not one of the duties of a notary. If a person needs help formulating a document, a notary is forbidden from giving advice on how to do so.

For immigration matters, non-lawyers may perform certain duties if they are accredited representatives, according to Laxalt. Accredited representatives are not attorneys, but are authorized to provide limited assistance for immigration matters and must work for a recognized organization and be authorized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA):

• Representatives must appear on this list, and must either provide their services for free or only a small fee.

• When speaking with someone claiming to be a representative, ask for a copy of the decision from the BIA granting official recognition to the organization.

• You may also check a list of currently disciplined practitioners and a list of previously disciplined practitioners to find out if the person you are speaking to has been expelled or suspended.

To check whether a notary’s appointment has been suspended, revoked or canceled, visit the Nevada Secretary of State’s website and click on the “licensing tab” then the “notary” option. People who misuse or are suspected of misusing the term “notario” should be reported to the Secretary of State’s office at 1-800-450-8594 (press option 6 to reach the document preparation services division). Reporting scams will not affect your immigration application or petition.

For more information about National Consumer Protection week, click here. More consumer protection information can be found on the Office of the Nevada Attorney General’s website and the Federal Trade Commission’s website.