Earlier this week, more than 80 people came together in Los Angeles. Federal, state, and local government agencies were there, along with legal services organizations, the State Bar, and non-profit groups. Our goal? To figure out how we can work together to protect immigrant consumers.
We heard about a lot of scams that target the immigrant community – from identity theft to notario scams, from bogus healers to a whole raft of car-related scams. Scammers targeting immigrants is common across the country – not just in Los Angeles.
From the discussion of these scams, the experts were able to draw some lessons that are true well beyond the borders of California – even where you live:
- Imposters are everywhere. Pretend government officials. Bogus computer repair people. Fake pharmacists. The list goes on. But, in immigrant communities, there’s a twist. Instead of “pay me money, or else,” people in immigrant communities hear “pay me money, or I’ll have you deported.”
- Reporting scams is important, but doesn’t happen enough. We heard that the immigrant community is hesitant to report scams to the government. Nonetheless, reporting scams matters. The more law enforcement knows about scams, the more we can do about them.
- Telling one person makes a difference. Talking to even one person about a scam makes someone less likely to fall for the scam. Getting off the phone, taking some time, and checking with someone you trust can make the difference between being scammed and not.
Finally, Rigo Reyes, Chief of Investigations at the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs, shared a key lesson about the importance of outreach: “Consumers will get information one way or another. The question is: who will give it to them? The scammers are ready to step in if we don’t.”