Phone Scam Targets New Canadians

25 January 2016

In a recent slew of phone scams across the country, fraudsters posing as immigration officials are requesting cash from non-native Canadians under threat of deportation, according to numerous reports by CBC News.

While incidents of this scam have been cited in numerous cities, they all seem to follow a similar pattern. Someone claiming to work for Citizenship and Immigration Canada calls and demands a fee of between $2,000 and $3,000 to correct faulty paperwork in an immigration application.

Some Canadians who have received these calls have been citizens their whole lives and have therefore been able to identify the attempts as scams right away. For newcomers to the country, however, the threat of deportation can be much more real. In one instance, according to CTV Montreal, fraudsters convinced a young Asian woman she would be deported along with her young child if she did not send them cash to remedy an issue with her immigration paperwork. Luckily for the woman, the manager at the Canada Post office from which she was attempting to transfer the money was able to identify the scam. According to a witness who was waiting in line when the incident occurred, that was not before the woman had become visibly scared and confused, emotions scammers often try to leverage to spurn quick action.

In some cases, like the one above, scammers simply try to convince victims to send them cash directly. In others, fraudsters try to get their targets to disclose private information, such as credit card numbers, to pay the fabricated fines, Ottawa Police Service Staff Sgt. Stephanie Burns told the CBC. In addition to setting victims back thousands of dollars in made-up fees, this gives fraudsters information they could use to commit identity theft, which could end up being even more costly.

If there is any doubt that a call is legitimate, says Burns, people shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions. “What we find is that people who do ask questions and start to push back a bit, it quickly unravels into a scam because the person on the other end of the line gets abusive and starts to get very hostile,” said Burns, according to CBC News.

Even when people ask questions, however, it is not always clear whether callers are telling the truth. For example, when Toronto resident Georgina Perez asked her caller for more information, he gave her a badge number and offered to let her talk to a supervisor, she told the CBC. The call even managed to show up on Perez’s caller ID system as coming from “Citizenship and Immigration Canada.”

Perez eventually decided to call the CIC on her cell phone while on the line with the scammer, and the agency informed her that all of her paperwork was in order. Any time consumers have questions about the legitimacy of a phone call or email, reaching out to the organization directly is often an easy way to find out if it in fact issued the communication.

Plus, as a reminder, staff at CIC would never accept fine payments over the phone by pre-paid credit cards or private money transfers, a spokesman told CBC News.

If you believe you have become a victim of a scam that could put you at risk of credit fraud or identity theft, signing up for a credit monitoring service can help you protect your identity. By keeping an eye on your credit file for certain activity that may indicate fraud, it will notify you if you need to take action, such as requesting a security freeze or credit alert, to thwart fraudsters.