In wake of parade shooting, some scammers focus on Latino residents
Some people calling Hispanic residents in the Highland Park area have claimed to be lawyers, or say they work for the Mexican consulate, and have offered help — for a fee — in getting visas intended for victims of violent crimes.
Scammers appear to have descended on the Highland Park area in the wake of the mass shooting at the July 4 parade — and some of them are focused on Latino residents.
People living both in Highland Park and neighboring Highwood say they have received phone calls from people claiming to be lawyers or saying they are calling from the Mexican consulate.
They offered to expedite — for a fee — applications for what is known as a “U visa,” which is intended for victims of certain violent crimes. It gives visa holders legal status for four years and can serve as a pathway to citizenship.
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Other residents say people have shown up at their door with similar claims.
Consul General Reyna Torres, from the Mexican consulate in Chicago, said scammers have tried to perpetrate this kind of fraud against Latino residents before. But in targeting those impacted by a mass shooting, she said, this scam is particularly galling.
“There’s nobody from the consulate calling people,” Torres warned. “Don’t let them fool you.”
On Monday, the city of Highland Park moved to address the situation and clarify what resources are available to Spanish-speaking residents.
Local leaders got wind of the attempted scams after potential targets contacted trusted community organizations to verify.
Some of those targeted reached out to the North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic. Immigration outreach coordinator Alicia de La Cruz said the clinic talked with two people who were targeted over the phone and more who were contacted in person.
“They were telling them, ‘I’m a lawyer; I’m going to help you, and the lawyers are going to help you with your U visa,’” de La Cruz said. “It doesn’t work like that, it’s not so easy.”
There is a six-year backlog in visa applications, according to the clinic’s senior attorney, Esteban Carbajal. Carbajal said the clinic had begun to review visa applications from residents impacted by the parade shooting and that applicants should only seek help from organizations that are verified.
In response to the attempted fraud, Highland Park published the names of trusted organizations that those impacted by the shooting can contact for mental health services, financial services and legal aid.
“These are the names we want people to become familiar with to prevent and avoid families falling victim to fraud,” said Carmen Patlan, director of the Highwood Public Library.
The city is also opening a Resource Navigation Center at Lincoln Elementary School iin Highland Park and a satellite location at the Highwood library. Starting Tuesday, “navigators” at these centers will be available to direct people to the appropriate organization according to their need.