Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is warning foreign nationals hoping to come to Canada to work, study or live permanently that they need to be wary of fraudsters posing as immigration consultants.
“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.”
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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.”
Fraudsters Use Private Information To Steal Identities, Money and Infect Computers
Con artists attempting to gain personal information to commit identity theft, fraud, theft from the victim’s bank account or credit card, or seeking to infect the victim’s computer with viruses operate using many different kinds of scams on the telephone and over the internet with fake websites.
In one well-known telephone scam targeting international students in Canada, the con artists seem to be targeting students in Ottawa and London and ask for payments over the phone, pretending to be Canadian immigration officials.
“We will never ask you for any sort of payment by telephone,” notes the IRCC on its website.
Anyone contacting a foreign national over the phone and asking for payment is not from Canada’s immigration department. It is a con artist. The best course of action is to hang up and report the fraudsters to the proper authorities.
These days, the internet is unfortunately rife with scams run by con artists who are very good at tricking people into revealing private 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.”
The IRCC is reminding foreign nationals that:
- no-one can guarantee them a job or a visa to Canada;
- only immigration officers in Canada, at Canadian embassies, high commissions and consulates can decide to issue a visa, and;
- processing fees are the same for all of Canadian immigration services in Canada and around the world and 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.
IRCC Never Threatens, Offers Deals, Or Asks For Money To Be Deposited Into Private Accounts
The IRCC promises its employees will never:
- ask a foreign national to deposit money into a personal bank account;
- ask a prospective applicant to transfer money through a private money transfer service;
- threaten anyone;
- offer special deals to people who want to immigrate, or;
- use free e-mail services, such as Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo Mail to contact prospective applicants.
Free application forms and guides for all of the IRCC’s services are on its website.
In addition to the phone and web, fraudster also make extensive use of e-mail to con unfortunate foreign nationals looking to work, study or live 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 scam e-mails from criminals. Canadian immigration officials never send e-mails asking for private 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.”
Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Not Used By IRCC
Tell-tale signs or red flags that such e-mails are from con artists include:
- the e-mail is sent from a private address or a free web mail address such as Yahoo Mail, Hotmail or Gmail, and not from the Government of Canada “gc.ca” or “Canada.ca” e-mail accounts;
- the e-mail uses a standard greeting such as “Dear customer” instead of the applicant’s real name. But please keep in mind the IRCC regularly sends some automated e-mails with the “Dear client” salutation. Make sure such e-mails come from a Government of Canada e-mail account;
- the sender asks for personal information, such as date of birth, password, credit card or bank details;
- the e-mail was unexpected;
- the message is an image instead of text, and;
- the e-mail contains a visa, which is something the IRCC does not do.
“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.”
In Canada, those who represent immigrants or give them advice about their immigration applications need to be licensed.
Citizenship or immigration consultants must be members of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants. Lawyers or notaries must be a member of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society, or the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
Paralegals, a situation which only applies in the province of Ontario, must be members of the Law Society of Ontario.
Immigration Lawyers Help Candidates Prepare Better Applications
Under Canada’s immigration laws and rules, immigration officers enjoy a great deal of discretion within precise limits. That means clear and concise applications which address key issues can be assessed more effectively and visas issued faster.
In the skilled worker category, for example, several jobs which are open to prospective immigrants do not require a formal job offer. The visa officer must approve and score the candidate’s experience. A good immigration lawyer will know the key points to highlight to maximize that score.
In the case where an applicant is applying under a business category, he or she is required to have management experience in the private sector and that, too, can lead to different visa officers reaching different conclusions. An experienced immigration lawyer will know how to present that experience effectively.
Since Canada’s immigration system is constantly changing to meet the policies of the government of the day and visa offices also have specific requirements, an applicant’s success or failure in navigating the system can often depend on getting the right advice from a Canadian immigration lawyer.
But finding the right lawyer to help with an immigration application isn’t always an easy process. Most big law firms in Canada do not provide immigration services. Immigration law is generally covered by lawyers who practice independently.
One of the best ways to choose a good, experienced immigration lawyer, one who specializes in this field, is to get a referral from a trusted friend.
Look for lawyers who write regular content on websites with in-depth information and analysis. Steer clear of law firms with sites containing a small number of outdated pages and minimal information copied from the government. A lawyer’s expertise should come across on their website.
When paying fees to a lawyer or law firm, those fees should be held in a separate trust account monitored by the professional order. Applicants should be cautious about making any payment to a corporate entity, regardless of the recipient, and see it as a red flag if a lawyer’s fees are not held “in trust”.
Quebec Operates Own Ministry Of Immigration
With the exception of Quebec, it does not matter where the applicant’s immigration lawyer is located in Canada because immigration is a federal matter.
In Quebec, the only individuals authorized to represent an applicant for immigration to Quebec’s Ministry of Immigration must be:
- 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 above-mentioned organizations, or;
- immigration consultants who are registered with the Registre québécois des consultants en immigration.
With its current backlog of applications, the IRCC’s processing times are far from the service standards it usually tries to meet – and that has led many foreign nationals to grow frustrated with the process.
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 short cuts! Doing it right is what will get you to the finish line the fastest!”