Newly arrived immigrants have been a target for visa scammers for a long time.
SBS Punjabi has, in the past, exposed many cases of visa scams in Australia in which vulnerable immigrants have lost hundreds and thousands of dollars to scammers posing as VFS officials.
The caller in most cases manages to convince the target into paying him money as the call always seems to be made from the Indian High Commission phone number. The scammers usually target international students or newly arrived temporary visa holders who are yet to receive their permanent residency.
So what are the tell-tell signs of a scam call?
The call will usually come from a number that is listed on the VFS website as their helpline number. That is the first point that gets the victim’s attention and convinces him that the call is genuine.
The scammer will then try to put fear in the victim by telling them that they have either made a mistake on their application form or boarding form or have left something incomplete on their form. This creates panic amongst vulnerable newcomers as they fear deportation or missing out on a chance of getting permanent residency in the country.
They are even more convincing as they tend to know a few details of the victims like their date of arrival or telephone number.
People should see a red flag when the scammer reassures the victims that the problem can be solved easily, if the victim transfers a certain amount of money immediately to their account. On some occasions, they also insist to stay on the phone line to make sure the money is transferred to their account under their watch and the victim provides them with a receipt number.
One of such cases was that of Jatinder Singh last year when he received a similar call demanding $970 to fix a problem with his application. New to the country and scared regarding his future prospects overseas; he complied with the demands and has never seen the money again.
But you would think that lightening does not strike twice. But it did for Jatinder. Just days ago, he received another phone call from the same number as listed on the VFS website. This time the scammer tried a different trick.
Because they had already scammed him once, this time the scammer told Jatinder that he was aware of what happened to him last year and that he was calling him to help him retrieve his money lost in the scam. Then, as suspected, he demanded that Jatinder transfer $111 to his account as a fee to get the services to retrieve the amount he had lost in the scam. Now wiser to the scam, Jatinder refused, which did not sit well with the scammer ultimately frustrating him and making him blow his cover. The scammer lost his cool and started abusing Jatinder before hanging up on him.
This is, yet again, a reminder that the scammers will use new and innovative methods to try to get money out of unsuspecting victims.
Jatinder contacted SBS Punjabi to share his story in the hope that others will be alerted of these scams. He wants the government to take better steps in educating people regarding visa scams and also wants newly arrived people to be a bit more alert and have confidence in themselves while dealing with such calls and by no means panic and transfer money immediately.
To educate people about these scams, VFS and the Indian High Commission Canberra also have warnings posted on their websites to alert people of such phone calls.
During SBS Punjabi’s conversation with VFS Chief Operating Officer, Australasia, Mr Sriram Narayan, Mr Narayan also pointed out that everyone needs to keep this in mind that VFS or any other government department will not call anyone directly, especially for financial matters and demand money on the spot. Government departments usually correspond via email or letters.
Another thing to keep in mind is that VFS does not have anyone’s Australian mobile number. They deal with your application when you are applying for a visa, whereas, you get your Australian mobile a few days after arriving in Australia and VFS by then has no contact with you.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of visa scams, please contact us on Preeti.email@example.com to share your story.