Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has cautioned foreign nationals who want to come to Canada to work, study, or reside permanently to be aware of scammers acting as immigration advisors.
“Don’t be a victim of immigration fraud,” warned the Canadian immigration department in a tweet earlier this week. “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Learn how to spot scams and protect yourself.”
Many of these fraudsters are surprisingly polished in their scams and can – and do – take unfair advantage of many prospective immigrants. On Twitter, one of their victims vouched for the need for foreign nationals to be vigilant.
“I’m someone who already became a victim of fraud,” tweeted one man. “Got a fake Biometrics Instruction Letter and Passport Request. Both fake. The agent ran away and then I got a letter from IRCC that I should lodge a formal complaint to local authorities.”
Con artists who are attempting to get personal information in order to conduct identity theft, fraud, or theft from the victim’s bank account or credit card, or who are attempting to infect the victim’s computer with viruses, utilize a variety of phone and online hoaxes.
Con artists appear to be targeting foreign students in Ottawa and London in one well-known phone scam targeting international students in Canada, asking for payments over the phone while posing as Canadian immigration authorities.
“We will never ask you for any sort of payment by telephone,” notes the IRCC on its website.
Anyone calling a foreign citizen and demanding payment is not a representative of Canada’s immigration service. It’s a charlatan. The best course of action is to put the phone down and denounce the scammers to the appropriate authorities.
Nowadays, the internet is sadly riddled with frauds perpetrated by con artists skilled in duping people into divulging personal information.
“It’s easy for criminals to copy a real website or build one that looks professional,” states the IRCC.
“Websites may claim to be official Government of Canada sites or their partners. Others may claim to offer special immigration deals or guaranteed high-paying jobs. They do this to trick people into paying them money.”
Foreign nationals are reminded by the IRCC that:
- No one can guarantee them a job or a visa to Canada;
- only Canadian immigration officers, at Canadian embassies, high commissions, and consulates, can decide to issue a visa;
- processing fees are the same for all Canadian immigration services in Canada and around the world;
- fees in local currencies are based on official exchange rates and are the same amounts as fees in Canadian dollars;
Fees for Canadian government services are to be paid to the “Receiver General for Canada” unless the IRCC states something different on a visa office website. The IRCC assures its staff that they would never:
- demand that foreign national deposit money into a personal bank account;
- demand that a prospective applicant transfer money through a private money transfer service;
- threaten anyone;
- offer special deals to people who want to immigrate;
- or contact prospective applicants using free e-mail services such as Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo Mail.
The IRCC’s website has free application forms and guidelines for all of its services. Fraudsters utilize e-mail in addition to the phone and the internet to defraud foreign nationals seeking to work, study, or reside permanently in Canada.
“You may get an e-mail that looks like it’s from a real company or the Government of Canada. It may ask you for private information, such as your date of birth, passwords or credit card details. Sometimes the e-mail will tell you to visit a fake website,” warns the IRCC on its website.
“Some people get e-mails that look like they are from IRCC. They offer special immigration deals if you give them personal information.”
These are criminals’ scam e-mails. Immigration officers in Canada never send e-mails requesting personal information.
“If you get this kind of e-mail, don’t click on any links or give any information about yourself,” cautions the IRCC. “If you have any doubts about where the e-mail came from, make sure to check the identity of the sender.”
The following are telltale signals or red flags indicating such e-mails are from scam artists:
- The e-mail is sent from a private address or a free webmail address, such as Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, or Gmail, rather than from the Government of Canada’s “gc.ca” or “Canada.ca” e-mail accounts;
- instead of the applicant’s true name, the e-mail includes a common greeting such as “Dear customer.” However, keep in mind that the IRCC sends out automatic e-mails with the greeting “Dear client” on a regular basis. Verify that such e-mails are sent from a Government of Canada e-mail account;
- the sender requests personal information, such as your date of birth, password, credit card or bank account information;
- the e-mail was unexpected;
“You should be very careful of scams asking for details like your credit card, bank account numbers, or any other payment information,” warns the IRCC.
“If you get a suspicious call, hang up right away and contact your local police to report it. You may also contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.”
Those who represent immigrants or provide assistance on their immigration petitions must be licensed in Canada. The College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants require citizenship or immigration consultants to be members. Members of a Canadian provincial or territorial law organization, or the Chambre des notaires du Québec, are required to be lawyers or notaries.
Paralegals must be members of the Law Society of Ontario, which is a scenario that only applies in the province of Ontario. Immigration agents have a lot of latitude under Canada’s immigration laws and standards, but only within certain parameters. As a result, visas can be awarded more quickly if applications are precise and succinct and address critical problems.
Several positions accessible to potential immigrants in the skilled worker category, for example, do not require a written employment offer. The candidate’s experience must be approved and scored by the immigration officer. A qualified immigration lawyer will know how to emphasize the most important issues in order to optimize that score.
When an applicant applies under the business category, he or she is needed to have private-sector management expertise, which might lead to various visa officers reaching different judgments. A skilled immigration lawyer will be able to successfully communicate that experience.
Because Canada’s immigration system is constantly changing to meet the policies of the day’s government, and visa offices have their own set of requirements, an applicant’s success or failure in navigating the system can often be determined by getting the right advice from a Canadian immigration lawyer.
Finding the correct lawyer to assist with your immigration application, however, is not always simple. In Canada, the majority of large legal firms do not offer immigration services. In most cases, immigration law is handled by independent lawyers.
Getting a reference from a trustworthy friend is one of the greatest methods to find a competent, experienced immigration lawyer who specializes in this sector.
Look for lawyers that provide in-depth information and analysis on a regular basis on their websites. Avoid law companies whose websites include a tiny number of outdated pages and scant material that has been taken from the government. The skill of a lawyer should be evident on their website.
Fees paid to a lawyer or legal firm should be stored in a separate trust account under the supervision of the professional order. Applicants should be wary of paying any money to a corporation, regardless of the receiver, and should consider it a red signal if a lawyer’s fees aren’t held “in trust.” Because immigration is a federal affair, it makes no difference where the applicant’s immigration lawyer is situated in Canada, with the exception of Quebec.
Only the following persons are permitted to represent an immigration application before Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration:
- individuals who have been granted special authorization by one of the two organizations mentioned above, or immigration consultants who are registered with the Registre québécois des consultants en immigration
- members in good standing of the Barreau du Québec;
- members in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec;
- individuals who have been granted special authorization by one of the two organizations mentioned above, or
- individuals who have been granted special authorization by one of the two organizations mentioned above.
With its present backlog of applications, the IRCC’s processing timelines are far from the service standards it generally strives to fulfil – and this has irritated many foreign nationals. Unfortunately, con artists try to capitalize on that frustration to lure foreign nationals in with schemes that promise a faster way. There aren’t any.
“It is a long, arduous process which requires an eye for detail and patience,” noted one Twitter user. “There are no shortcuts! Doing it right is what will get you to the finish line the fastest!”
Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only.
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