The scam is simple, call people pretending to be an official government institution and inform the unsuspecting person that their Social Insurance Number (SIN) has been compromised. The scammers are usually seeking your private information, like your SIN, that can be used to steal your identity. But in some cases, they can threaten retaliation if the person being scammed doesn’t send money to a private account.
SIN Extortion Scams
In a recent case, 22-year-old Giulia Hallais, an international student from Brazil studying in Calgary, was contacted by what she believed to be a government agency that told her that her SIN was compromised. In order to prove to the “government” that the suspicious transactions were not her doing, she needed to transfer her savings. Hallais was told that a police officer would meet her the following day with her funds and a new SIN.
“I was really scared and I was crying a lot because I was afraid of getting deported,” Guilia Hallais added. “I just wanted to finish my studies here in Canada.”
What is concerning about the Hallais case is that it appears the scammers are using technology to spoof the number they are calling from. The scammer essentially makes it appear as though they are calling using official government contact credentials.
What are Canadian immigration scams?
Canadian immigration scams are a major problem for individuals and businesses, both inside and outside of Canada. They come in many forms and mediums but email, fax, telephone, fake websites, and in-person connections are the most common.
Scammers deliberately target newcomers because they are less familiar with how government bureaucracy works in Canada. These scammers, most likely based outside of Canada, make it difficult for authorities to find and prosecute them. Instead of relying on law enforcement to address this issue, you must be vigilant and know what to look for.
Knowing how to identify a scam and what to do if you fall victim to one is essential information for anyone immigrating, living, working, or studying in Canada
How to spot a Canadian immigration scam
The Canadian Government does not call you asking for your SIN or to send money to private accounts. In the event that you are contacted by a representative of a government agency, they will use official websites, emails, and phone numbers to reach you. But as we saw in the case with Hallais, the scammers allegedly spoofed the phone number. The same could be done with an email address or through the creation of a fake website, so the correct contact information alone might not be sufficient.
If you aren’t sure if the person calling you is a scammer, the best thing to do is ask the caller to provide you with their contact information and you will get back to them. Any government institution will accommodate this request. If the caller appears angry or threatening when you refuse to provide private information or make bank transfers, this is a good indication it’s a scam.
Once you have the contact information, you should verify it is correct from an official government website but you can also contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre or your local police station.
If you believe you are the victim of a Canadian immigration scam, you can report that to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by clicking here.