Three New Brochures Designed To Combat Scams That Target Oregon Latino Communities Are Now Available To The Public
Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced the filing of agreements with two Portland area businesspeople who targeted Hispanic communities by advertising services on Spanish radio stations and/or in Spanish yellow pages without being legally licensed to provide them. Named in Assurances of Voluntary Compliance (AVCs) filed in Washington and Multnomah County Circuit Courts are Evelie Ortiz of Portland, doing business as Hispanic Financial Services Ojeda & Ortiz, and Jorge Macias of Portland. Neither agreement admits violation of law.
"The Oregon Department of Justice will not tolerate businesses taking advantage of residents of our Latino communities due to possible language barriers and fear of reporting fraudulent schemes to law enforcement because of lack of proper documentation," Myers said. Myers explained that in a 2003 survey taken for a 2004 Hispanic Initiative, the Federal Trade Commission reported that Hispanics are "nearly twice as likely as non-Hispanics to be victims of fraud."
The Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated complaints against Federal Financial Center, and its purchaser Hispanic Financial Services, and discovered the companies made promises orally and in Spanish radio advertisements to assist customers file for bankruptcy and to help with debt; in fact, the owners merely provided translation assistance and referred customers to "We the People," a document company. Other customers paid money for documents they never received.
Evelie Ortiz, doing business as Hispanic Financial Services, has agreed to not advertise, solicit, or conduct any financial services business or paralegal services in Oregon. Additionally, if Ortiz complies with the AVC, DOJ will suspend the obligation under the AVC to pay $5,000 to DOJ's Consumer Protection and Education Fund.
Jorge Macias of Portland has a history with the Department of Justice having signed two earlier AVCs and a letter agreement concerning other issues.
Under the latest AVC, Macias is prohibited from advertising investigative services in the Spanish yellow pages when he is not a licensed investigator. Macias is prohibited from holding himself out or advertising as an investigator without being legally licensed by the State of Oregon. Macias is required to pay $4,000 to the Consumer Protection and Education Fund, $3,600 of which is suspended if he complies with the AVC.
Myers also announced the availability of three new consumer protection brochures designed to combat scams that target Latino communities. Printed in Spanish, the brochures are the product of a cooperative effort of Attorneys General nationwide.
The idea for the brochures was developed by a group of Attorneys General Public Information Officers working through the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). The funding was obtained through a consumer-protection grant fund established in a 1997 settlement between the State of Massachusetts and Sears-Roebuck. This "Sears Fund" grant financed the production and distribution of 300,000 of these brochures nationwide.
Entitled "Fraud in Your Home," "Fraud in Your Wallet" and "Fraud in Your Car," each of the three brochures contain general information for Spanish-speaking consumers. The focus is on commonly reported scams, including home repair, telecommunications fraud and auto sales. In addition, the brochures focus on scams that specifically target Latinos, such as the sale of fraudulent international driver's licenses and work-at-home schemes.
The brochures are being distributed to 41 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. As part of the same grant, NAAG is developing additional educational material to be made available through the Internet in coming months. Since 1998, the Sears Fund has issued more than $2 million in grants. A total of $5 million has been set aside for the fund.
Consumers wanting more information about consumer protection in Oregon may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320 (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. The Department of Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org