WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Scammers taking advantage of the federal government's Black Farmers Settlement are targeting the local black community.
Word got out that if you showed up Friday at the Ekklesia United Holy Church on 17th Street near Market, filled out an online form, then had it notarized on site for $20, you could apply to receive part of the proposed $1 billion settlement. The qualifications to apply for the settlement are very strict and only apply to very few black farmers and their families.
Officials tell us the online form is free to download and does not need to be notarized. It's also illegal to charge more than $5 for a notary stamp in North Carolina. A spokesman for the Black Farmers Claims Administrator, the independent group overseeing the settlement, says what's going on in Wilmington is "a total scam."
"Anyone soliciting clients indicating that they can get them into this lawsuit, by paying any amount of money is a scam," said Greg Francis, who is part of the Black Farmers Lawsuit Council. "There's no way to pay to be in this lawsuit at this point."
Francis says they have heard of these scams happening in other places around the country. He says they typically notify the United States Department of Justice.
We went inside the church looking for someone in charge. Everyone we talked with said no was in charge was there. The people taking applications also scooped up their forms and left while we were trying to get answers.
Det. Kevin Smith with the Wilmington Police Department says exchanging $20 for a notary stamp isn't fraud, because it's payment for a service. However, he says paying $20 for a worthless piece of paper is definitely a scam.