Authorities in Australia, Canada and Singapore have all warned in recent weeks of scams targeting immigrants in their countries.

The recent warnings highlight a global trend of attempts to trick immigrants out of their money or provide them with fraudulent services.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said on April 23 that it had received 150 reports of fraudsters impersonating government officials by threatening visa holders and citizens with deportation before demanding fees of around AU$1,000. The ACCC reported that since February, more than AU$35,000 has been lost.

“Anyone who receives (a) call seeking payment should ignore the demands for payment and hang up,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard. “Scammers may try to pressure you by repeatedly calling and harassing you – but if you give your money to a scammer you will never see it again.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada warned on March 11 of a pattern of fraudulent phone calls, stressing that CIC “does not contact individuals for the purpose of collecting fines or personal information to avoid deportation and NEVER asks the public to make a payment over the telephone.” More recently, the Abbotsford Police Department, in British Columbia, warned of a scam where a caller demanded that a man turn over CA$4,280 within seven hours or face deportation.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on April 22 that it had received reports that “callers impersonating as MFA officers have called members of the public to request that they verify their personal particulars and to pay a penalty for issues related to their immigration white card.” The MFA urged people to file police reports immediately if they receive such calls.

Immigration scams seem to know no national boundaries. Germany, France, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. are among the plethora of other countries where scams have been reported since 2013. In the U.S., employers have, in the past, reported scams targeting employees on H-1B visas. Other scammers have posed as Internal Revenue Service officials demanding payments.

New York (this month) and Los Angeles (in December) are among the U.S. cities to have launched programs to target immigration scams. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services created the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law Initiative to help root out scams, and the agency provides information online that outlines the “top things to know” before and after filing applications and petitions, a list of common immigration scams and state-by-state information on how to report scams.

BAL Analysis: Scams targeting immigrants have become common in recent years. Most government agencies stress that officials will not make threats of deportation or ask for money over the telephone. Targets and victims of immigration scams are encouraged to contact law enforcement authorities. BAL will continue to monitor reports of scams and update clients accordingly.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network providers. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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