Tax evaders without mercy, targeting asylum seekers

News 13 December, 2017
  • Photo archive, Benoît Philie
    Each new wave of migrants, such as the one that knocked at the gates of Quebec last summer, here in the region of Hemmingford, is accompanied by a new fraud attempt that targets asylum seekers, ” said the immigration lawyer Stéphane Handfield.

    Christopher Nardi

    Wednesday, December 13, 2017 01:00

    Wednesday, December 13, 2017 01:00

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    OTTAWA | fraudsters aim of asylum applicants in a new scam of a magnitude rarely seen. They extort money by pretending to be an immigration tribunal, even going as far as to threaten expulsion.

    Since 7 December, the immigration and refugee board of Canada (IRB) has received not less than 140 complaints from people saying to have been the target of an attempted extortion aimed particularly at asylum seekers. Several were from Quebec.

    “Asylum seekers get calls from scammers saying that they are representatives of the IRB, they are currently under investigation and that they owe us money as part of their case […] Since the beginning of December, we are receiving an unprecedented amount of complaints “, explains the spokesperson of the organization Line Guibert-Wolff.

    If fraud about immigrants are not new, this is the first time that the scammers claim to be from the IRB in order to extort the people with hearings before the Commission, said Ms. Guibert-Wolff.

    New entrants

    The IRB is the largest administrative tribunal in the country and slice especially in the records of the asylum request. This organization receives between other applications of migrants who have crossed in mass to the canadian border last summer.

    Asylum-seekers often arrived in the country. Their poor understanding of the language, of society and of their rights, there are victims of choice.

    Ms. Guibert-Wolff said that if a hundred people across the country have complained in the last days, this means that there are many more who have received calls, and that some have folded to the demands of the crooks.

    Threat of eviction

    How fraudsters managed to target both asylum seekers is not yet clear, but the Canadian anti-fraud Centre (CAFC) stated that they use public records to find and to contact their targets (see below).

    In the majority of cases, the scammers require at least $ 1000 to the victim saying that if she does not pay, his case will be refused and it will be either imprisoned or outright expelled from the country, ” explains Alain Boomhour, the CAFC. Some victims are said to have left up to 10 000 $.

    “Sometimes, the fraudsters go so far as to speak in the mother tongue of the victim to make their call more credibility, and better understanding of [ … ], The victims are often new and have little understanding of our laws and the functioning of the system, so they are afraid and they pay,” explains Mr. Boomhour.

    Modus operandi

    1. The fraudsters will generally seek to join people they believe to be asylum seekers. According to the anti-fraud Centre the canadian (CAFC), they look for people whose name has a foreign connotation in the public registers, such as the phone book, and who live in neighbourhoods that are known for their immigrant population.

    2. When they join a person, they present themselves as a representative of the Commission of the immigration and refugee board (IRB) or the royal Canadian mounted police. They tell him then that their asylum application is incomplete, or claim that it is the subject of a criminal investigation at the request of the embassy of their country of origin. Sometimes, they even speak in the language of origin of the victim to make himself more convincing.

    3. They then indicate that they can deal with the situation “immediately” in exchange for a fee ranging on average from 1000 $ to 3000 $, indicates the CAFC. If the victim does not pay promptly, they the threaten of deportation from the country or of an imminent arrest.

    4. If the victim agrees to pay, the scammers ask him then send the money to an address outside of the country via a money transfer service such as MoneyGram or Western Union. However, it is not rare now that the fraudsters are also asking for money in the form of gift cards to Apple or Steam, which they then sell for cash.

    5. Unfortunately, if a victim agrees to pay a time, it is often done to harass again for the same reasons. In a few cases, some victims have already paid more than $ 10,000 to scammers, indicates the CAFC.

    Source : immigration and refugee board and the Canadian anti-fraud Centre.

    They target vulnerable populations

    Each wave of refugees in Canada is generally accompanied by a new attempt of fraud against them, because they represent a particularly vulnerable population, according to an expert.

    “As soon as there is a finish significant of refugees in Canada who made the headlines, we know that they will be covered by one scheme or another fraudster. There is a group of unscrupulous people who try to take advantage of their vulnerability, ” explains the immigration lawyer, Stéphane Handfield.

    According to him, the language barrier is that victims of frauds, such as the one that is raging now across the country, often misunderstand what is being said. They are therefore more likely to fall into the panel.

    The victims also know very little of the functioning of the government, the asylum system and their rights in the face of the police and the immigration and refugee board of Canada (IRB), adds the specialist.

    “Asylum-seekers arrive as often from a country where there is a fear of the authorities and police. So if a fraudster presents himself as such, and requires a payment, it is incredibly stressful for the victim, ” continues Me Handfield.

    Compromised data ?

    Moreover, it is deeply concerned for the privacy of asylum seekers if the fraudsters managed to obtain the contact information of people who are waiting or have already had hearings before the IRB.

    For the moment, neither the Canadian anti-fraud Centre (CAFC) or the IRB cannot say with certainty how the fraudsters managed to so well to aim for the asylum seekers.

    “The asylum process is confidential from A to Z, and hearings are the same in camera to protect the identity of the applicants. If there is a leak of this information to the fraudsters, it is extremely worrying, ” says Me Handfield.

    What to do if you receive a call questionable ?

    • You should never pay the sums required. The IRB will never request a payment by phone.
    • Ask for the name and telephone number of the person at the other end of the wire. If it requires a callback, use the official number of the IRB to try to join : 1 866 626-8719.
    • Make a complaint to the CAFC at 1-888-495-8501.

    Source : CAFC