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January 23, 2023

Avoiding Canadian immigration scams and fraud

Published on January 15th, 2023 at 08:00am EST

Between November 14 to December 8, 2022, a span of just 24 days, CBC reported on three different alleged Canadian immigration scams.

In Edmonton, a Concordia University student who moved to Canada from Iran this fall lost nearly $11,000 to phone scammers. In early December, reports surfaced that a Ghanaian man faced an alleged social media employment scam that also asked for money related to a health insurance fee. Thankfully, he was vigilant and realized this was a scam before sending any money.

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Unfortunately, the “dozens of victims” who were allegedly each scammed out of “$5000 or more” by a Vancouver immigration consultant may not have been as lucky. It is alleged that the immigration consultant in this scam, who has now had a class action lawsuit filed against her, misrepresented herself as a lawyer and defrauded migrants “with promises of a path to permanent residence in Canada through a nonexistent program.”

The above examples were all provided to outline the prevalence of Canadian immigration scams across the country. Accordingly, the following outlines three things to remember that will help recent Canadian immigrants and future hopefuls looking to work, study or immigrate to this country avoid the harsh consequences of falling victim to immigration fraud or an immigration scam.

IRCC and the collection of fines/fees

It is increasingly common for immigration scams, and scams in general, to be perpetrated over the phone. In fact, according to a poll conducted as part of a January 2022 story from CityNews Vancouver, scam calls in Cantonese or Mandarin are up 20% since 2019. Adding to this is the fact that, according to the President of Vancouver-based research firm Research Co., 60% of cellphone users receive scam calls pretending to be part of a government agency.

To this end, it is important for Canadian immigration hopefuls to understand that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will never call anyone or contact them either online or in-person to collect fees or fines to avoid consequences such as deportation. IRCC notes that scammers will “often give a fake name and agent number to appear legitimate” but urges that these types of calls are always a scam.

Do not be afraid to contact local police and/or report the incident if someone calls and threatens consequences for not paying money or providing personal information.

IRCC’s official scam/fraud identification resources

Immigrating to a new country is a journey that requires immigrants to find information that they can rely on. In the age of the internet, unreliable information is everywhere because just about anyone can start a website or a blog and claim to be an expert on a subject of their choosing. For that reason, official government resources are key to any immigrant’s journey to Canada.

It is important to keep in mind that IRCC also offers official government resources (FAQs and tip sheets) to help recent Canadian immigrants and those looking to come to Canada in the future identify and avoid immigration-related fraud and scams.

Whether someone is seeking information on a particular type of fraud/scam (telephone/internet scams, document fraud etc.) or looking to understand what to do if they fall victim to a scam/fraud, IRCC provides extensive online resources on all these subjects. These tools will help both recent immigrants to Canada and future Canadian immigration hopefuls stay aware and protect themselves from these situations.

Verifying the legitimacy of Canadian immigration service providers

When coming to a new country, immigrants often need help from other people. This help, depending on the choices made by the immigrant/immigration hopeful, may come from an online forum or an immigration advisor such as an immigration lawyer, representative or consultant. Still, similar to how anyone could present themselves as an online subject matter expert through a website, it is not difficult for scammers to pose as trustworthy and credible immigration advisors.

To help both recent Canadian immigrants and future immigration hopefuls manage this, official Canadian registries and directories exist to verify the legitimacy of individuals who claim they are authorized to represent immigrants/provide immigration advice. For instance, all Canadian citizenship and immigration consultants must be a member of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants. Likewise, Canadian immigration lawyers and notaries must be registered with a Canadian provincial or territorial law society and Ontario-based paralegals are required to become members of the Law Society of Ontario.

IRCC notes that most provincial and territorial law societies provide online tools to verify if a particular individual registers as a member in good standing, and an individual’s “standing” is a worthwhile indicator of whether immigrants should use the services of that immigration lawyer.

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