Scams Targeting International Students in Canada and How to Avoid Them
As an international student in Canada, it may take time to learn how government agencies and organizations work and contact residents. Scammers target international students who are still adjusting to independence and may not realize the risks of fraud.
It’s good to learn about and avoid scams, even though Canada is relatively safe. This article describes common scams targeting international students in Canada and offers tips on recognizing, avoiding, and reporting them.
International students may encounter scholarship scams when applying for Canadian study programs or during their education. Scammers may promise a guaranteed scholarship if you pay an “application fee”. They’ll take your money and leave after you pay the fee. Social media and WhatsApp are used to spread “pay-for-scholarship” scams.
How to avoid scholarship scam
Getting a scholarship offer without applying may be a scam. International students don’t pay application fees for legitimate Canadian scholarships.
Prior to applying for scholarships, verify the organization and scholarship. Beware of organizations that offer scholarships without assessing your education credentials in Canada, where scholarships are usually merit-based.
If someone claims to be from IRCC or CBSA and says your student visa or immigration status is in jeopardy, it may be a scam. The caller usually claims your study permit documents are defective and that you will be arrested or deported unless you pay a fine.
You’ll usually be asked to transfer funds via e-Transfer, money wire, prepaid credit cards, gift cards, or Bitcoin. The caller may also demand your passport, SIN, credit card, or bank account information.
How to avoid visa fraud
IRCC and CBSA will never call to deport or arrest you. No legitimate government agency will request Bitcoin or prepaid card wire transfers.
Ask the caller for their name and employee number or hang up if you suspect a scam. Wait 10 minutes, then call the department’s official number to verify the call. Report fraudulent calls to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre.
International students in Canadian universities are vulnerable to ghostwriting scams. Fake websites or third parties may offer to write your assignments or essays for a fee. After you pay, the scammer will drop your assignment or send you a plagiarized one.
How to avoid ghostwriting scams
Ghostwriting scams promise fast delivery or good grades. Don’t outsource your academic work just because you’re overwhelmed by classwork and assignments.
Cheating in Canada includes plagiarism, getting help, and having someone else do your homework. Cheating is taken seriously and can result in a failing grade or expulsion from college.
Beware of accommodation scams if you live off-campus in Canada studying. An attractive rental listing may be priced below the market average. The supposed “landlord” will require a deposit before meeting you or viewing the property. Instead of listing real rental properties on Facebook, Kijiji, and Craigslist, scammers use property images from other listings.
The landlord may have rented the house short-term and cannot rent it to you. The listing and “landlord” will disappear after you pay the deposit.
Avoiding Accommodation scams
A listing that sounds too good to be true is probably a scam. Scammers may demand a deposit immediately by claiming they have other interested parties. Another red flag is if the “landlord” requests a wire transfer, gift card, or PayPal deposit or makes excuses to not show you the property. When renting, meet the landlord, inspect the house, and sign a lease before paying a deposit.
Email scams (phishing)
Phishing scams attempt to steal passwords, credit card numbers, bank account information, and SINs. International students in Canada may receive phishing emails or texts asking them to click links, share personal information, or download files.
Phishing emails may claim you’re entitled to a tax refund, gift card, or prize, that you need to update your financial information for a subscription, or that your account has suspicious activity and needs to be verified. Sharing personal information is required when you click the link.
Email attachments may contain software or viruses that reveal your personal information to the scammer. Your personal information may be used in future scams, making them more realistic and harder to detect.
How to avoid phishing
Phishing emails can be hard to spot because they often look legitimate. Never trust an email address unless the domain matches the organization it claims to be from. Bad grammar, unrealistic offers, and unknown senders are red flags.
Avoid clicking links, downloading files, or sharing sensitive information in phishing emails. Instead, call the organization’s official number to verify the email.
When applying for student or full-time jobs in Canada after graduation, you may encounter employment scams. International students are often scammed into paying a deposit for a fake job before starting. In fake job offer emails, fraudsters include phishing links or “forms” that require students to share personal information for references, making them vulnerable to fraud.
Some recruitment agencies may contact you and promise guaranteed employment. The recruitment agency or mandatory training courses to improve your Canadian employability will charge a “fee”.
How to avoid job scams
After reviewing resumes and cover letters, legitimate hiring companies will interview shortlisted candidates. Be wary of job offers from companies you haven’t applied to or interviewed with. No credible company will ask new hires for money for any reason. Many employers may ask for your references’ phone numbers and emails, but a legitimate employer won’t.
Recruitment agencies in Canada are paid by employers, not employees, so if they charge you, it’s a scam. Employment agencies cannot guarantee jobs or require training. Before hiring, research the agency and request references.
Credit or debit card fraud
A scammer steals your debit or credit card information to commit fraud. Access your physical card, steal your bank statements, hack into company databases with your financial information, or trick you into sharing your credit card information on a fake payment website. The scammer then uses your card to shop or withdraw money.
Fraud prevention for debit and credit cards
Never leave your debit or credit card unattended or share your number or PIN. Discard all bank paper statements. Always check the website’s legitimacy before entering your credit card information when shopping online.
If your debit or credit card is lost or stolen, notify your bank immediately and block it. You should also check your credit card statements monthly for fraudulent charges.
Crimes of Virtual kidnapping
An individual posing as your home country’s embassy or consulate, police, or Interpol may call international students. The caller may ask for personal information and claim your credit cards were used in a crime. They’ll then try to get you to send them money, cut off family and friends, and hide to avoid the criminal case.
Scammers may contact your family to demand ransom for kidnapping you. Sometimes fraudsters blackmail students to provide fake “hostage” videos of themselves to intimidate their families.
Avoiding Virtual kidnapping scams
Canadian government agencies never threaten or demand money. Keep an eye on your credit card and bank statements for fraudulent charges to avoid such scams. Government agencies never ask for personal information over the phone, but they may ask you to verify their data.
If you receive such a call, don’t give out personal information or pay. Instead, verify the claim and report fraudulent calls to your local police. Tell your friends and family back home that you received a scam call so they can beware.
Reporting international student scams in Canada
Canada is plagued by scams, but police estimate that only 5% are reported. Reporting fraud helps law enforcement catch scammers, protecting you and other Canadians.
If you or someone you know has been scammed, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or at 1-888-495-8501. You should also report the scam to your local RCMP or provincial police force immediately. If you accidentally shared your financial information, lost your credit or debit card, or suspect your credit card has been misused, put an alert on your credit report and contact your bank to cancel your cards.
Scams are unfortunately common today. Canadian international students may be especially vulnerable to scams. Knowing how scammers can target you is one of the best ways to avoid them. Stay vigilant and never share personal information or pay anyone without checking.
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