Grandmother Falls Prey to a Language School Scam

Juanita Erazo tried to sign up for an English course advertised as free. (Photo by Victor Matos / EDLP)

Many of the stories that we hear of for-profit schools scamming students involve teenagers or young immigrants looking for a way to access the American dream. But an 88-year-old grandmother from Puerto Rico also fell prey to such a scam, from a school promising that it would teach her English, El Diario La Prensa reported.

[Juanita] Erazo worked all her life in a factory, sewing mattresses and suitcases, and says she never needed English because everyone spoke Spanish. But now, not being able to communicate with her neighbors has inspired her to learn English.

“Sometimes I talk and I say OK, OK, but I do not understand,” said Erazo, who lives in the Bronx.

So when Erazo saw an ad for a free course at the Academia Latino Americana, called “Inglés Sí Se Puede” (“English Yes I Can”), she immediately called. She was told that the course materials would arrive in 24 hours and was asked for her credit card, she told El Diario. She explained that she had thought the course was free.

The issue would have ended there, except that in 24 hours, [a man] called to bill $199 for the shipment, which had not yet arrived. Erazo lives on a small pension and distressed.

Erazo’s daughter, Maria Vazquez tried to explain that her mother had not intended to purchase any materials, and had thought that the course was free, as advertised. But the man was “cold,” she told El Diario, and threatened to refer the matter to his company’s legal department.

Vazquez checked out the company on the website of the Better Business Bureau in California, where the ALA is located.

Unfortunately, when Vazquez found the page, it was too late. There, she discovered that the ALA had been rated “F,” the worst score, as a result of 32 complaints.

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