Scammers extort more than $150,000 from migrants

Peter Terlato 4 October 2016

Scammer

ACCC warns against scam that targets prospective immigrants.

Scammers claiming to work for the "Department of Immigration" have been threatening migrants to Australia with deportation if they don't cough up cash for "fees" relating to visas and associated paperwork.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has received 300 reports of such scams since March this year, with victims reporting losses in excess of $150,000.

Scammers specifically target vulnerable migrants and temporary visa holders, contacting them by phone or email, claiming there are problems with immigration paperwork or visa status.

In order to sound more legitimate, fraudsters use personal information found on victims' social media profiles.

The scammers request fee payments, either via wire transfer or in the form of iTunes gift cards. If payments aren't made, scammers often threaten the arrest or detainment of family members or loved ones.

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard says the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will never ask for wire transfers or iTunes cards as payment options.

"Scammers may try to pressure you by calling incessantly and harassing you, even threatening to send the police to your house. Simply hang up and do not respond. If you give your money to a scammer, you will never see it again," she said.

The ACCC offers these tips to prevent and identify scammers:

  • Ignore phone calls out of the blue telling you you'll be deported if you don't pay a fine.
  • If you're unsure if you're being scammed, contact the relevant government department independently.
  • Never send money via wire transfer or any other means to anyone you do not know or trust.
  • Never give personal information, bank account or credit card details to unknown sources.
  • Be aware of immigration fees and charges.
  • Know your visa status and entitlements.

You can report immigration fraud matters to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection via the Immigration Dob-In Service.

In Australia, fraudsters are often active around tax time. You can report scams or check the validity of a communication by visiting the government's Scamwatch website.

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