Feds target scams victimizing Latinos
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 5, 2005


Mel Meléndez

Latino activists in Phoenix are lauding the Federal Trade Commission for its efforts to combat fraud schemes victimizing Hispanics, a commonplace occurrence throughout the Valley, they say.

"You hear of stuff like this all the time," said activist Chris Ibarra of the Downtown Voices Coalition, a consortium of nearly 90 community organizations. "Too many Latinos are the victims of apartment-rental scams and predatory-lending practices that specifically target Latinos."

Apartment-rental, home-repair and auto-sale scams topped the list of fraud schemes victimizing Valley Latinos at an FTC-hosted forum last month at Arizona State University West.

Latinos are two times likelier than others to be the victims of consumer fraud, according to a 2003 FTC study. Language, cultural barriers and immigration status often make them ideal targets.

The forums, which also will be held in other big cities with large Latino populations, aim to identify recurring Hispanic fraud issues and to cull feedback from law-enforcement and community leaders on how to encourage victims to report the crimes.

"Many Latinos are afraid of the government, whether they're citizens or not, which makes us appealing targets," said community activist Samuel Esquivel, former state director of Arizona's League of United Latin American Citizens. "So I'm thrilled that the FTC is seeking community input to try to address this problem."

The agency recently launched ¡Ojo!, a bilingual Web site at www.ftc.gov/espanol, with tips and resources for Latinos and a bilingual hotline, 1 (877) FTC-HELP.

This article also appeared in ¡Extra!