What is Notario Fraud?

“Notario” is a term used to identify individuals who practice immigration law without a license, distinguishing them from attorneys and representatives accredited by the Justice Department to practice immigration law. In many part of Latin America,  a “notario” is an attorney and can practice law. However, in the United States, a “notary public” is not an attorney and is only authorized to corroborate an individual’s identity on legal documents.

Fraudsters often advertise to the immigrant community as “notarios” – using their license as a notary public to trick Spanish-speakers into thinking they have a license to practice law. The word “notario” is generally used to indicate someone who is engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

A “notario” is not an attorney and does not have the legal knowledge or license to represent someone in their immigration case. A notario may charge significant amounts of money even though they do not know immigration law and may cause harm to an immigrant’s case.

Warning signs that you may be dealing with a notario:

In your immigration case, do not hire someone who:

  • Guarantees you a visa or immigration status or claims to have a special relationship with immigration authorities.
  • Refuses to show you their license or accreditation.
  • Refuses to give you a contract for their services.
  • Asks you to sign blank or incomplete forms, or forms with wrong or false information.
  • Offers other services, such as tax preparation.
  • Does not have a physical office and can only be contacted by email or phone.


Warning signs of a fraudulent tax preparer

Avoid an audit—do not hire a tax preparer who:

  • Charges a fee based on a percentage of your refund.
  • Refuses to give you their PTIN number (Preparer Tax Identification Number).
  • Asks you to deposit your refund into a bank account that is not yours.
  • Asks you to sign a blank or wrong tax return.
  • Asks you to pay a health insurance penalty directly to them instead of the IRS.
  • Charges you to file a return when you have low income— instead use a free tax preparer


  • Always get a copy whenever anything is submitted in your case.
  • Get a contract or receipt from the tax preparer who did work for you.

Resources for Attorneys:

HILSC’s Notario Fraud Prevention Working Group has created an Attorney Toolkit to help attorneys interested in suing notarios understand how to do so.  The toolkit is available below, as are presentations on related topics:

Resources for Community Outreach:

HILSC Pamphlet on how to identify and avoid “notarios” or fraudsters who offer immigration legal services without a license or specialized knowledge, and where to report them:

HILSC Pamphlet on Tax Preparer Fraud: Learn how to identify and avoid fraudulent tax preparers, and where to report them:

HILSC Notario Fraud Prevention Flyer:

HILSC PowerPoint Presentations on Notario Fraud, Tax Preparer Fraud, and 5 quick slides you can add to any outreach presentation

Avoiding Fraud When Seeking Immigration Legal Services (ILRC, 2021):

As you explore potential immigration options for you or your family, finding trusted support from a reputable immigration attorney or other legal service provider can be difficult. Just as payday lenders often prey on under-resourced communities, or predatory scammers pose as immigration officials to demand gift cards in exchange for benefits, certain businesses can mislead the public by offering immigration legal services despite being unqualified and illegal to do so. This guide is designed to help you identify some key red flags that may indicate a business is not acting in your best interest or is otherwise not providing reliable legal advice or services.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) comic booklet or “fotonovela” on notario fraud:

Notario Fraud and Prevention in the News:

Page last updated: May 2021

Reporting Fraud Stops Notarios!

  • Texas Attorney General
    (800) 252-8011 (State-wide complaints)
  • Office of the Harris County Attorney, Vince Ryan
    (713) 274-5280 (Harris Co. complaints)
  • Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee
    (512) 427-1341 or contact online
  • File a Grievance Against a Lawyer
    (800) 932-1900 (The Texas Bar Association)
  • Executive Office for Immigration Review
    (877) 388-3840 – A centralized place to make fraud complaints, and report immigration scams and UPL
  • IRS
    Report it with Form 3949-A or call to order form: (800) 829-3676

Legal Assistance

For assistance with your Immigration case

For Help with IRS Issues

If your tax preparer committed fraud, a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) may be able to help you with your IRS issue:

  • Lone Star Legal Aid LITC: (800) 733-8394
  • Houston Volunteer Lawyers LITC: (713) 255-1TAX (1829) or (713) 228-0732

Get assistance preparing and filing your tax return:

Recover Your Money

Individuals can file a small lawsuit against notarios to recover money paid for immigration or tax services.

  • Lone Star Legal Aid: (800) 733-8394
  • Houston Volunteer Lawyers: (713) 228-0732