- Immigration fraudsters are parting South Africans from their money with promises of getting them into Canada with guaranteed jobs.
- Those who still want to emigrate after being scammed can’t go to the authorities for fear of being barred from Canada.
- Scammers seem to sense opportunity in the current political climate in South Africa, one (legitimate) immigration consultant says.
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One South African family has lost around R100,000 to scammers who promised to get them into Canada. Others regularly pay up to R80,000 to “consultancies” that guarantee jobs in the likes of Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal – and so, residency in Canada.
And as long as the victims are truly committed to emigrating from South Africa, such scams are the perfect crime, say specialist immigration consultants.
“That’s the genius of the scam,” says Nicholas Avramis of Cape-Town based Beaver Immigration Consulting. “If you go public and the Canadian government finds out, whether what you did was illegal or not, you’ll never get into Canada.”
Admitting to having been involved in a scheme to defraud immigration authorities – even as victim – could also affect even normal visitor visa prospects for the likes of the United Kingdom and New Zealand too, Avramis says, so anyone who wants to leave South Africa is unlikely to report the crime.
In some cases immigration consultants believe their clients have been scammed, but do not want to admit it even within that relationship, simply because they are embarrassed. Avramis, however, believes this kind of fraud runs into millions of rands every year in South Africa, based on anecdotal evidence such as the family that paid R100,000.
Avramis points to Canada’s genuine plan to attract one million new immigrants over the next three years as a likely reason why such scams seem to be growing more prevalent in South Africa.
But there is also a plausible local reason for what he too believes is an uptick in such fraud, says Robbie Ragless, managing director of New World Immigration.
With renewed political and economic uncertainty in South Africa even legitimate and mostly-legitimate immigration consultants are ramping up marketing efforts to attract customers, says Ragless.
“I’d be shocked if there wasn’t a dramatic spike in spam artists in this arena right now just because of how desperate people are,” he says.
The highest single number Ragless has seen lost to an immigration scam was R80,000, but he believes a large number of people are regularly being talked out of smaller sums, often after they are told they will have trouble being accepted into another country, and then suddenly getting a call from a consultancy that offers a sure-fire solution.
In one test, says Ragless, New World created a “ghost profile” of a 55-year-old menial labourer, “literally the least promising immigration candidate ever”. That fake profile was guaranteed entry into Canada, in one of the cases New World is now reporting to the Canadian government.
Neither Avramis nor Ragless are entirely sure why their clients would fall for such fraud, despite the Canadian government’s efforts to warn of immigration scams and helpful tools such as a checklist of warning signs that you may be dealing with a scam immigration website.
A mixture of desperation, confusion about bureaucratic rules, and a simple belief that anyone charging a lot of money must be legitimate all seem to contribute, though.
How not to get scammed on a Canadian visa
South Africans seem to be targeted in several different types of emigration scams. Some involve “guaranteed jobs” in Canada (though a job offer alone is not sufficient for entry into that country), others offer “assessments” at fees of up to $800 per person.
The Canadian government recommends neither paying money nor providing personal information to anyone but a trusted provider, as even personal details can be misused, or be a starting point for extortion.
It is an offence under Canadian law to take money for immigration services if not regulated by Canadian law society the ICCRC, or the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
A list of accredited providers is available at http://iccrc-crcic.info/find-a-professional/.
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