By Vinay Malhotra, Regional Group COO – the Middle East, South Asia & China, VFS Global
Going hand in hand with the number of people aspiring to work or settle abroad, are the scams that prey on this aspiration. One often hears about cases of people being defrauded on false promises of jobs or immigration abroad by fraudulent entities, which impacts applicants not just financially and emotionally but also put them at a risk of their personal data being misused.
In 2018, VFS Global, the world’s largest visa processing service provider for governments, received more than 560 complaints, via emails from affected parties, about fraudulent entities posing as company representatives and making bogus job and immigration offers, in exchange for significant sums of money paid upfront towards visas or work permits. Most of the complaints originated from individuals based in India, followed by those based in the Middle East.
Some recurring themes or patterns are observed in these fraud complaints: The fraudulent entity informs the unsuspecting individual, via email, that their qualifications have been found suitable to work as an employee or for immigration and settlement purposes. The individual is then asked to share personal data and make upfront payments to expedite a visa/immigration process or job offers.
Sometimes the scamster will say these costs would be reimbursed once the process is complete. It is important to remember that these communications are fraudulent – they do not originate from VFS Global nor are they associated with the company’s visa processes. Further, VFS Global is not a recruitment company and does not offer jobs or immigration advisory.
VFS Global is actively involved in efforts to build awareness among visa applicants to be wary of fraudulent entities who guarantee immigration, employment or visas in lieu of upfront payment. This includes strategically placed messages at multiple touchpoints to warn applicants to beware of fraudulent entities, such as SMS, call centre voice messages, fee receipts, consumer publications, posters, emailers, etc. In addition, through its Information Security teams, the company investigates any misuse of the brand and sometimes take legal action against these scamsters if possible.
As a result, there was a 32 per cent decline in visa fraud complaints reported to VFS Global in 2018, compared to 2017.
Here are a few indicators that a communication may be a scam:
1. The fraudsters allegedly post jobs online with too good to be true salaries and unbelievable benefits.
2. You will receive emails with job offer or immigration promises from fabricated email IDs via personal email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc.)
3. You will receive a job offer from a company you have NOT applied to.
4. Without giving an interview receive an offer letter which includes the names and out-of-proportion logos of VFS Global with or without fake Embassy stamp.
5. You will receive an offer letter asking you to pay for the visa processing fee. It may demand advance payments to personal bank accounts with the threat of visa application rejection.
Customers need to be vigilant about the calls and offers they receive. We recommend that you do not respond to unsolicited business propositions and/or offers from people with whom you are unfamiliar. Do not disclose your personal or financial details to anyone you do not know. Furthermore, applicants are urged never to publish their passport or visa application numbers on public domains or social media platforms, where scammers are constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities.