Refugee board warns of escalating phone scam targeting newcomers

April 15, 2019

By the Metroland Media Group |

Fraudsters have been using the names and numbers of government officials on caller ID to make the bogus calls look legitimate.

Refugees and newcomers are being warned of an escalating telephone scam with those behind it using the publicly available names and numbers of government officials on caller ID to make the calls appear legitimate.

The federal government and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre have been warning of such scams for years, but the latest twist in tactics targeting newcomers recently prompted the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) to issue a new alert about fraudulent calls.

“Victims have reported receiving telephone calls from persons claiming to be representatives of the IRB and being told they are under investigation and owe money. In some cases, these calls seem to be coming from the IRB or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police,” the IRB warning says.

An earlier warning by the board said some of the targeted people actually had asylum hearings before it, but officials told the Star they have no idea how the callers tracked down the information, which is not public.

In 2018 alone, more than 22,000 people received extortion calls from fraudsters claiming to be from the immigration department, the refugee board or the Canada Revenue Agency, with almost 1,500 falling victim to the phone scams and forking over $6.4 million, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which is jointly managed by the RCMP, the Competition Bureau and the OPP.

IRB spokesperson Anna Pape said the tactics involved in the scams targeting immigrants and refugees keep evolving and are becoming more sophisticated.

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