FTC cracks down on scams within ethnic communities

LOS ANGELES – From travel scams to pyramid schemes and bogus billboard sales, Filipinos have been on both ends of alleged scams.

Now the Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on scams within ethnic communities.

“The every community initiative that’s designed to let everyone know we are out there looking for consumers in all communities, and that’s ethnic communities at different income levels, different ages,” FTC Asst. Regional Director Thomas Syta said.

Under the initiative, the FTC is asking ethnic communities to come forward with information on possible scams by filing complaints and alerting community members.

“We can shut down a scam, but we need to learn about it,” Monica Vaca of FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said. “Scams we don’t know about are completely invisible to us.”

Police say language and immigration status should not be barriers.

“On our crime reports, nowhere in there is a checkbox that says what’s your immigrant status. Are you here legally? That does not matter to us. What we do care about is letting the community know we will investigate that report as we would any other report, regardless of immigrant status,” Lt. Al Labrada of the Los Angeles Police Department said.

The FTC said while certain government programs are meant to provide relief to many consumers, it can also open the door for more scams. They’ll be on high alert in the coming months as scammers may take advantage of one initiative.

In May, millions of undocumented immigrants are expected to begin applying for President Obama’s executive order. Like with past programs, this order has now put authorities are on high alert

“They will go out there and figure out and how can we take this executive order and twist it in such a way that they’re trying to make money,” Syta said.

Late last year, California’s AB1159 was signed into state law, making it illegal for so-called notarios to market immigration services if they are not licensed attorneys.


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