March is Fraud Prevention Month in Canada: Recognize it, Report it, Stop it!
I recently complained about the number of scams going on in Thailand but I must admit Canada is not perfect either. While the government and the police are relatively corruption-free, and the country is very safe, we have a fair number of scam and fraud problems.
On the bright side, Canadians are pretty honest and polite. If you drop some change in the bus, people will likely help you pick it up, and I’ve never heard of someone being short-changed in most shops. Taxi drivers won’t overcharge you and for reputable businesses, the motto “the customer is king” is still true.
But that means that fraud, when it exists, is highly organized and harder to spot. In this series, I will highlight ten common frauds and how to recognize them. A new article will be published each Saturday starting this week.
Immigration fraud is my pet peeve. Scammers prey on prospective immigrants abroad and in Canada, and they can make you lose a lot of money. They also make a lot of promises they can’t hold and people are left disappointed, none the wiser. The Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration (CIC) regularly warns people against immigration fraud. Yet, nothing seems to stop the scammers who promise the moon and the stars to immigrants.
One of the biggest problems is the number of shady “immigration consultants” who promise “fast and easy” immigration to Canada. The CIC explains it very well: if the offer is too good to be true, it probably is. If you are thinking of hiring an immigration consultant, be aware of the fact it won’t increase your odds of obtaining a visa. So before you spend money on “immigration consultation”, do read the CIC advice. Shady immigration consultants may disappear overnight, delay application or even tempt you into submitting fake documents. If you decide to hire an immigration representative, be sure to read these tips.
If you are abroad and thinking of immigrating to Canada, beware of false websites and paid “lottery” schemes to win a “green card”. The U.S.A does hold a yearly drawing to offer immigrants the possibility to apply for permanent residence, but no such thing exists in Canada. And by the way, the U.S Green Card Lottery is free… Also beware of fraudulent websites posing as official Canada government sites. Some of these websites seek money in order to “complete” visa forms.
Not that long ago, I helped one of my readers to undercover an immigration job scam. Unfortunately, these are fairly common. Usually, these ads offer a guaranteed well-paid position in Canada, regardless of the applicant skill. The bogus offer may include “extras”, such as a guaranteed work visa, free airfare, relocation fees… Just run away from these, or at the very least, do a lot of research beforehand. While some companies do recruit abroad, the red tape is such that only very skilled workers in specific fields may get hired. And trust me, the process is a tad more complicated than these scam job offers may claim.
Scammers typically troll poorly moderated immigration forums and put up flashy websites selling hope to those interested in leaving their country. They will invariably need some money to “help you qualify” for immigration but won’t follow-up once the money received. Some sell expensive immigration kits even though all the immigration forms are available for free online on the CIC’s website. Other collect fees based on promise they can’t keep, such as a guaranteed tourist visa or work visa. No matter how badly you want to come to Canada, think twice before you pay for immigration advice!
And finally, learn from other people’s mistake: you can read a few scam stories here.