Identity Theft in Immigration Fraud

An Open Letter to Directors, CICC & CAPIC

This letter discusses the role of Identity Theft in immigration fraud and presents a Call to Action from both sides of the RCIC/Client Fence. 

To catch a thief shouldn’t be this hard. Every day we get contacted by innocent people who have sold the farm and wired huge sums of money to a perfect stranger, all the while thinking they are dealing with us. This has become endemic.

The tips below are written for you to educate first yourselves, then your clients, and for all of us to collectively ask for targeted action from CICC, the College. Below is a three-prong strategy to begin this important discussion.

Educating Clients: Immigration Fraud and Identity Theft

Immigration fraud and identity theft are serious issues that can result in significant financial loss and other complications. To protect your clients from these scams, it’s important to teach them how to spot the fakes and stay safe.

To confirm the legitimacy of a genuine RCIC, check their registration with the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC) and verify their identity through their own website.

Top 10 Tricks used by identity thieves:

  1. Be cautious of companies offering jobs with high salaries that seem too good to be true. They may be recruiting for low wage or ordinary jobs and promising fast visa approvals within weeks for you and your family to come to Canada.
  2. Be wary of social media ads that offer jobs and quick visa approvals at high wages. These ads may lead you into a chat, and then the scammers will move you off to WhatsApp or email to close the deal and take your money.
  3. Be suspicious of agents who ask you no qualifying questions, no language tests or education requirements, and promise that everyone gets approved.
  4. Do not trust agents who send you photos of their passport data page and CICC license to establish trust, as it is illegal, and no legitimate RCIC consultant would ever do so.
  5. Watch out for scammers who reverse the name of the consultant or their company name, show last name first, first name last, and use emails with the reversed name
  6. Be cautious if the phone numbers given by the agent are different from those listed on the RCIC’s website or CICC verification page.
  7. Be wary of fake job offer letters and work permits. To get a work permit, you need to have a job offer from a Canadian employer, and the employer needs to apply to Service Canada to get an LMIA. If you’re unsure about the validity of a job offer, you can contact both the employer and Service Canada directly to confirm it.
  8. Be cautious of low-priced immigration services, as they may be illegal agents not authorized to represent you to CIC, and the quality of their service may be low.
  9. Research the company thoroughly before engaging their services. Check their registration with the CICC , ask for references from previous clients, and verify their business details. You can also check their online reviews and social media presence to see what others are saying about their services.
  10. Verify the identity of a genuine RCIC by checking their profile on the CICC website. They should have a unique identification number, and you can cross-check it with the CICC’s database to ensure their authenticity. You can also verify their identity through their own company or consultant’s website, which should have the same email and phone number as listed on the CICC website.

Remember, always be vigilant, cautious, and do your research before engaging with an immigration service. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Protect yourself from identity theft and other online scams by verifying the legitimacy of the company and the agent representing you. If you’re unsure, contact the regulatory body CICC for assistance.

To RCIC Colleagues: Minimize Identity Theft

As an RCIC, you have worked hard to build your professional reputation and earn the trust of your clients. Unfortunately, immigration scammers may try to steal your identity and use it to scam unsuspecting clients. This can be devastating not only for your clients, who may lose their life savings, but also for your professional reputation.

Immigration scammers are like modern-day pirates, clever, fast-moving, and difficult to catch. If you become a victim of identity theft, you may feel helpless and frustrated. Innocent victims may wrongly accuse you of cheating them, and unfortunately, regulatory bodies like CICC, CAPIC, CBSA, RCMP, and even IRCC will likely not rush to help you protect your reputation or recover the money that has been stolen. The crooks are almost impossible to catch, and you may feel like you are fighting a losing battle.

Top 13 things you as an RCIC can do to protect yourself:

  1. While there is one exception, money sent to an actual bank anywhere can be difficult to trace, and the account holder is often very elusive to catch.
  2. Set up Google searches to find your name, company name, and RCIC number anywhere on the web, daily. This can help you monitor any suspicious activity related to your identity and take appropriate action.
  3. Become a complete professional. Stop using web-based email services like Gmail or Hotmail, which are considered a hallmark of amateurs. Instead, create a professional website with a domain-based email and prominently display your contact information.
  4. Set up a professional website that includes contact information and domain-based email. Having a website can make it easier for potential clients to find you and learn about your services.
  5. Add fraud warnings on your website to alert potential clients about the dangers of immigration scams. These warnings can help protect both your clients and your professional reputation.
  6. While it’s important to promote your business, it’s advisable not to conduct business transactions on social media or messaging apps. Scammers often use WhatsApp to communicate with victims.
  7. Become a mini expert on search engine optimization (SEO) to improve your online visibility and avoid scammers who promise to get you on the first page of Google. Be wary of such claims and know that achieving high visibility takes time and effort.
  8. Be aware that thief agents often use untraceable satellite phones and web-based email services, and do not provide meaningful contact information on their website.
  9. If you suspect that you are dealing with a fraud artist, consider entrapping them by having an email address to make inquiries from, get them to solicit fees, get the specific name and bank account information, and then turn them into Facebook, Kijiji, domain registrars, and authorities last.
  10. Count on the thieves opening a brand-new fake profile within an hour of you having them shut down. You are in it for the long haul, so be prepared for a long fight.
  11. Don’t count on anyone yet, like CICC, CAPIC, CBSA, or RCMP, to rush to help you. Unfortunately, regulatory bodies are not always equipped to handle identity theft or online scams.
  12. Finally, don’t take it personally. Identity theft and online scams are unfortunately common occurrences in today’s digital age. It’s not a reflection on your professionalism or reputation as an RCIC. Remember to stay calm, keep your wits about you, and maintain your sense of humor. By taking steps to protect your identity and educating your clients about the risks of immigration scams, you can continue to provide valuable services to those seeking to immigrate to Canada.

To CICC: Your Help is Needed  

The College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants can and should do more to protect consumers and your reputation.

Top Five Requests to our Regulator: the CICC

  1. We recommend and ask that CICC greatly expand the “Find a Consultant” page to include all valid contact information for RCIC’s.
  2. Include full contact details for every RCIC: website, phone number, email, business address, and photo.
  3. Contrary to current thought, thieves are using just the name and R license number, and then posting ads with essential details of the real RCIC changed, as noted above. They are hiding in the shadows of what the client does not know, taking advantage of their simplicity. Doing these things turns up the light full force.
  4. The page should include a huge caution that clients should be wary of anyone with even one small detail off, as these may be scammers.
  5. CICC, in conjunction with IRCC, should promote two campaigns: First, the Anatomy of a Scam: Ten Tricks thieves use, and Second: a basic fact sheet debunking common scams: fast visas, no language or education requirements – all the hallmarks of the “sounds too good to be true”. Get the message out on both the IRCC and the IRCC websites to begin with, run social media campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, the very scene of the scammer’s crimes, and move to billboards. Get everyone talking about this!

With deep gratitude for your consideration, and participation.

david LeBlanc  RCIC – IRB
Managing Director, Senior Counsel
Ferreira-Wells Immigration Services, Toronto    416-651-8889 

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