INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 29, 2016)-- Police are expressing major concerns after a scam targeting a vulnerable Indianapolis community is now being advertised out in the open.
On the streets of Indianapolis, fake IDs and drivers licenses are abundant. Some of them are for teenagers looking to have a good time. But for others, obtaining an ID is a matter of survival.
Members of Indy's immigrant Hispanic community are looking for ways to travel in the City. IMPD Officer Rafael Diaz insists not all the victims are here illegally. Some simply don't speak fluent English and don't completely understand how Indiana's ID laws work yet, said Diaz.
If someone needs to go to work, he said, "they know they have to find a way to get there."
Cops like Diaz know shady services have long plagued the city's Hispanic neighborhoods. However, recently, IMPD has noticed something new and alarming.
Local businesses are boldly advertising illegal services out in the open. You can find them inside Hispanic magazines anyone can easily pick up at the Hispanic grocery stores.
"That really caught our eye," said Diaz.
The ads offer a variety of BMV services like renewing your sticker for only $20 or running plate transactions. While business owners will claim they are working with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, a BMV spokesman told FOX59 the bureau is in no way affiliate with any of these stores.
The biggest scam of all, according to the BMV, is the advertisement, creation, and sale of international licenses.
FOX59 found ads in Spanish, that when translated to English, read "Instant international licenses," "A personal ID for any state," and "Valid for five years."
Some are being sold for $100. Others are discounted at $70. We even found an ad that included a coupon which read: "License $50."
Police believe the majority of buyers are victims that were targeted. And they trusted these businesses, because the ads were found in what appeared to be legitimate magazines in a legitimate stores.
"A lot of these families who are immigrants that are coming here who a lot of times really don't know," said Diaz. "When they see it in a magazine, they're more than likely gonna think that this is okay."
But it's not okay.
The BMV reminds Hoosiers, it is a crime if anyone other than the BMV or a federal agency offers to make you an ID card of any kind. You must be present at the BMV to have an ID made.
According to the BMV and Mexican Consulate in Indianapolis, an international license isn't even real. An actual international permit to drive must be acquired in the country of origin and cannot be created here in the U.S.
Officer Diaz took FOX59 to the Cortez Agency on Beachway Drive. The store offers a variety of merchandise like t-shirts and leggings, but it's also advertising international licenses among other BMV services.
FOX59 took a camera inside and found stacks of people's registrations lying around in plain sight. One registration was from Chicago sitting out in the open for anyone to steal.
"There was people`s information just sitting openly for anybody to pick up," said a dismayed Diaz.
Even more shocking to him was the fact that there was a BMV office right across the street from this shop.
If their documents aren't legitimate, victims can lose money, get in trouble with police, or even jeopardize their identity.
"If these businesses are gonna be providing services that are illegal, they could lose their business license," warned Diaz. "But I know some of these businesses are offering business licenses too!"
We sent FOX59's Gabby Gonzalez undercover into another store openly advertising international licenses.
She told the clerk she was trying to obtain an international ID for her mother. The clerk told her Gonzalez didn't need to bring her mother in. Instead, she handed Gonzalez a form to fill out and even showed her how to take a picture of her mother for the license.
Gonzalez was told the international license would cost $130 and would be ready in a matter of days.
Diaz said it was important that the immigrant Hispanic community understood that the police was trying to help them. He had this message for them:
"Los servicios que muchos de estas tiendas estan ofrenciendo no son legales aqui en los estados uniods. Es possible si usted esta pagando por esos servicios es possible que pueden recibir una multa," he said. "Sinceramente queremos protegerlos as ustedes de que sean victimas y dejarlos saber que la policia esta aqui para ayudarlos y educarlos."
If you have been scammed by a business, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission.