In October 2022, the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) called out the social media giant, Meta, on their lack of action cracking down on Canadian visa program scams. A TTP investigation found multiple Facebook posts targeting migrants by offering them travel, employment, and accommodation in Canada with the promised documents available through their websites. These websites then ask those interested to invite their friends via WhatsApp in order to access their promised visa information. These websites never produce the promised visa and knowingly spread misinformation about the Canadian immigration system. They also harvest the personal data of unsuspecting victims and open them up to identity theft.
What do these Visa scams look like?
These immigration scams use fake employment opportunities to draw victims into the scam. The Facebook and WhatsApp posts examined by the TTP advertise fake visas in immigration groups. They mainly target those from Central America, South America, and Africa. “The posts state that Canada is recruiting more than 450,000 migrant workers and promise financed travel, free housing, immediate work permits, and legal assistance from the Canadian government for all migrants over the age of 16.” The TTP report goes on to show that when an interested party clicks on the link, they are directed to send the website information to at least 15 other people. One site stating “your Canada visa form will be available as soon as you click the ‘Invite Friends/Group’ button below to share this information with 15 friends or 5 groups on WhatsApp…If you do not complete this step correctly, the visa form page will not load.”
Other posts use Facebook profiles of people pretending to be immigration lawyers. One alleged profile that uses variations of the name “Janelis Osoria” or “Osoria Rosados”, direct users to message them privately for more information. In some cases, fake immigration law firms advertise the visa scams and use Facebook’s Messenger for Business to direct victims to “talk to an adviser”, further spreading misinformation.
What are some of the things to look out for?
We have received multiple reports of fake profiles that use our law firm’s name on WhatsApp and Facebook. Using the names of established lawyers or firms is very common among these scammers. To prevent being caught in these schemes, there are a few quick things to look out for:
- Ensure the points of communication are from the official source of the business or the individual themselves. Check the official website of the lawyer or firm which will have accurate contact information.
- Most lawyers and firms do not use WhatsApp. If the communication is through WhatsApp, make sure that the phone number is the official phone number.
- When using email, ensure the email address uses the official website’s domain (ie. firstname.lastname@example.org)
- The safest way to communicate or submit inquiries is by contacting the lawyer or firm through a webform on the official website or by calling directly.
What actions will the Canadian Government take against these Visa Scams?
The Government of Canada have warned Facebook users of the scam and the potential messages circulating on WhatsApp. Furthermore, Meta is also fully aware of these scams and has not been seen to take action against these posts. This violates their own corporate policies to detect and remove such content. Continued lack of action helps these websites to funnel desperate migrants towards exploitative situations. The TTP investigation also showed that Google helps to enable these scam websites by allowing the use of Google’s analytics and advertising tools to collect more personal data off victims and make money off the site traffic. Google also has corporate policies that require sites that use analytics to abide by privacy laws and data regulations.
Similar scams circulating in January 2022 used the link shortening service TinyUrl to direct users to a fake immigration application page. However, by February, TinyUrl had terminated the link. The TTP notes that Meta has not taken similar action against these posts despite how easy they are to spot and the increasing number of identical post flooding immigration groups. Google has also been slow to flag these websites and prevent their analytics and advertising tools to be used to further target vulnerable people.
How We Can Help
Matthew Jeffery is a Canadian immigration lawyer based in Toronto, Canada. Mr. Jeffery specializes in all types of immigration matters, from spousal sponsorships to refugee board appeals. With over twenty years of experience and an excellent success rate, Matthew Jeffery is recognized as one of Canada’s premier immigration lawyers. Please CONTACT US today to see whether we can assist you with your immigration matters.