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The Less Talked About Immigration Scam

By Shweta Patel: Everyday, we hear about people losing their hard earned money to the classic romance scams, investment schemes and job and work from home scams. A relatively lesser-known scheme which is often a variant of job scams, is very surgically targeted at victims looking to relocate to foreign shores.

These are often hard to crack by the brightest people given there is no way to physically verify the details, because of the distance involved and the general lack of information about the country concerned.

Sometime ago, a near victim (well-educated and born and raised in Mumbai) reached out to me to vet out some documentation she received from supposedly an employer based in New Zealand.

She mentioned that the person who she was liaising with (let’s call him the subject)had a very thick accent. This I supposed was fine but on further questioning it turned out that he had called her from a phone number that was not from New Zealand. To me that was certainly a red flag. Moreover, the subject made a demand for a payment of almost INR 1,45,000 and this was what made her think twice and wanted to get a second opinion.

HOW THE IMMIGRATION SCAM WORKS

The job ‘offer’ when we reviewed it was better than most scammers come up with and had no spelling or grammar mistakes. However, on further scrutiny it became clear that it was a scam. One key red flag being that at that time New Zealand was not processing any visas from India, let alone work permits. Fortunately, the payment was not made with the scam exposed, and the person concerned is settled today in a real job in another foreign country, happily. We read about a lot of negative stories in the media so I wanted start this article on a positive note with my very own “war story” of a scam prevented.

So, what are the different immigration scams out there and what are some of the things to bear in mind. Well, no one wants to let go of that foreign job opportunity if it was a good one. And it is not as easy to brush off as the regular WhatsApp lottery scam that we can more easily choose to ignore.

These scammers are often on legitimate job portals prowling around for the next migration hopeful to bait with a job ‘offer’.

They may initially sound very professional and conduct pretend ‘interviews’ or no interviews at all and appear to be impressed with you. To make it even more attractive some even go on to suggest work from home as an option. They even go into elaborate schemes including sending an offer letter.

However, soon enough they will start demanding money for ‘processing’ your application. The language may vary and they may ask for a payment for either sending over your ‘start up kit’ or ask for a ‘start-up fee’.

As the scam progresses, they may ask for a ‘training fee’ as well. In some cases, a victim may receive a call from a ‘government agency’ or ‘Visa department’ threatening to cancel the visa if a fee is not paid.

There was most egregious case I read about where the victims’ passports were taken and returned with a fake Visa sticker pasted inside it! This was only detected at the airport, to the utter shock of the victims who had unwittingly trusted the scammers to the extent of buying tickets.

In the less egregious cases there are fly by night operators that collect a small ‘registration fee’ from many victims before they disappear and stop taking calls altogether. There are also cases I am aware of whereby Indian students abroad and temporary residents in foreign countries have been scammed by fraudsters with the threat of deportation.

Here are some of the red flags to look out for with some Dos and Don’ts –

  • A recruiter reaches out to you without you actually applying for that role with them – should sound every alarm bell in your head.
  • Sense of urgency created for making a payment on any pretext – training, materials, visa processing, medical exam, flight tickets etc. whether this is by means of a threat or not.
  • Poor grammar, spelling mistakes in the offer letter that comes from ‘the management’ or some vague authority.
  • Work visa/work permit being offered by countries that don’t have the concept of a work permit for foreigners, or are currently not open to hiring from overseas due to immigration restrictions or other Immigration rules.
  • You are offered a job without meeting anyone on camera for the position only on the basis of your resume.
  • A generalist job/role description that anybody could fit.
  • The role offered is a skill not in demand in the country the job is based in.
  • There is no interview conducted or a very rushed single round of interview before closing on the offer.
  • The fees charged are a lot lower than the industry standard fee charged by most immigration and Visa consultants.
  • Do check the company website based on the letter head, and check if the brand name of the company is correctly spelt.
  • Do also separately google the actual company to cross verify. For e.g. the offer may be from a hotel that does not exist in the location concerned or the contact details could be fudged.
  • If still in doubt do reach out to a trusted recruitment/immigration consultant or other industry experts to verify the documentation and process for the country concerned.

Shweta Patel is CEO & Co-founder of Humint Solutions (Fraud & Scam Prevention Experts)

About The Author: Shweta Patel is CEO & Co-founder of Humint Solutions (Fraud & Scam Prevention Experts)

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