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How to Spot and Avoid Canadian Immigration Scams

A new immigration program is being touted online, called the “Diversity Immigration Visa Lottery.” The program apparently is offering more than 55,000 permanent resident cards to Canada for “underrepresented countries”. Even more intriguing is that this application is for free.

There is only one problem with this great new immigration program: It does not exist.

Immigration Fraud

Websites are created to advertise immigration programs that in reality do not exist and fraudsters are able to steal the unsuspecting victims’ personal information from these online websites. In the case above, the Diversity Immigration Visa was a complete fabrication and created with great insight to defraud the unwary victims. In fact, the fraudsters played on the fact that United States of America does have a Diversity Immigration Visa making it more believable that Canada must have a similar program.

Despite efforts by the Canadian government to get people to report this kind of fraud, it unfortunately still happens.

Spotting Immigration Scams

There are a few ways that you can steer clear of scams like this one. Remember that any legitimate immigration program will be listed on the Canadian government’s website, www.canada.ca. If a simple search does not reveal anything official published by the government, you can safely assume it is a fake.

Look for the official Canadian wordmark, which identifies information endorsed by or associated with the government of Canada, although that wordmark can certainly be used fraudulently or without permission. The Canadian government also has its own website, advising people how to avoid immigration scams.

Remember that legitimate immigration programs only require that you pay to process applications for visas, residency, and other documents—they do not charge you just to get the forms themselves, as many fake websites do. Legitimate programs also do not require that you give them personal information or pay anything before you begin the application.

Common sense should be your guide, as well. This latest “diversity immigration program” scandal was posted on a website called bitcoingrower.life. It is highly unlikely that any legitimate immigration program would be listed on a website with “bitcoin” in its name, especially without “.ca” at the end of the URL.

It is important to note that the government also does not send out personal emails promoting immigration programs. You may receive emails outlining immigration programs in Canada from various companies, however, you should become suspicious if the email claims to be from the Government of Canada or any affiliated agency.

Just like any offering, if any program seems too good to be true (too inclusive or too easy to get), it probably isn’t legitimate.

In many cases, the fraudulent sites inaccurately state Canadian immigration laws, or even mix up Canadian and United States immigration laws, as this one did (although admittedly, you may need to have a legal background to discern whether there is a legal inaccuracy).

In many cases, the fraudsters will require payment in a particular form. For example, Ottawa police recently reported on a deportation scam where students were told that they were charged with a crime in their home country, and that they had to send pre-paid gift cards to a lawyer to get themselves out of trouble.

Phone Scams

Scams do not just come in email form or online. Often they come by way of the telephone, and these calls can be frightening. Late last year the Canadian government advised people of a scam where international students were being called and told that they faced deportation or arrest unless they paid money.

Some of the calls came from people who falsely identified themselves as agents of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. Many falsely told students that there was an arrest warrant out for them. Many of the calls urged the students to forward thousands of dollars to them in order to get the aid of a lawyer.

Remember that with today’s technology, fraudsters can mimic a local phone number, or even a police department’s phone number to show up on your caller ID, so do not assume that a call is legitimate just because it comes from an area code or a phone number that you recognize.

Additionally, remember that ID theft is common, and many fraudsters use your personal information to convince you that the call is legitimate. Just because a caller knows your personal information, does not mean the call is real.

In 2015, a Toronto woman was called, and told that she did not file correct paperwork in Mexico before immigrating into Canada. The caller gave a (fake) badge number, posing as an agent of Immigration, Refugess and Citizenship Canada. Police report that some of the scammers specifically target those with foreign sounding last names.

Fake Offers of Help

As you have probably noted by reading some of the scams above, many scams do not promote fake immigration programs or promise entry into Canada, but rather, advertise assistance or special treatment in the immigration process. Their site may say that it has an “end around” the traditional process of getting into the country, or that you need to have a representative to apply for residency and you should use them to help you.

Legally, you do not need any representative—consultant, lawyer, or otherwise—to apply for a visa or residency (certainly having a qualified immigration lawyer will greatly help you—but no legitimate lawyer will say that it is “mandatory” or that it is required to get legal representation in the immigration process).

A qualified lawyer can help you determine which immigration programs are real and which are fraudulent. If you have a question about Canadian immigration law, contact the Preszler Law Firm for help or for answers to your immigration questions.

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