The application process for would-be immigrants to Canada can be a long and complex one. Various immigration pathways each involve the research and analysis of multiple layers of intricate requirements and the navigation of a complex bureaucracy. In light of these difficulties, countless groups have sprung up online, promising simplified immigration solutions. Some of these so-called companies offer fake documentation, including language test results or offers of employment, and so on. Fraudsters take advantage of individuals who have not conducted enough research into the Canadian immigration system or the immigration agency purporting to be working on their behalf.

The presence of scammers like these understandably casts doubt on legitimate business operators. Nowadays, it’s difficult to know who can be trusted! Here are a few tips so you can protect yourself:

Check credentials

Only two types of professionals can act as your Authorized Representative for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) applications – Lawyers and Immigration Consultants. It’s easy to determine if you are dealing with a Lawyer or Immigration Consultant because both professionals belong to governing bodies. While it is rare to find someone calling themselves a lawyer, there are many individuals in Canada and around the world who act as ‘ghost’ consultants and immigration advisors.

Lawyers – All practicing lawyers are members of a provincial Law Society. Once you know the name of the lawyer who you plan to hire, contact the Law Society website for their province to confirm that the lawyer is registered. You can find links to all of Canada’s Law Societies here: https://flsc.ca/about-us/our-members-canadas-law-societies/

Immigration Consultants – Legitimate immigration consultants are licensed by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council. The Council overseas Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCIC) and Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIA). You can always contact the Council by visiting Find an Immigration Professional – ICCRC-CRCIC (iccrc-crcic.ca) to confirm that your Immigration Consultant is licensed.

Investigate Their Online Presence

Look carefully at the website pages of the lawyer or consultant that you are going to hire. Some red flags are spelling mistakes and pictures taken from other websites. Always check the address on Google Maps to see if the business address is legitimate. Call the business to see who answers or if there’s voicemail.

When you see the names of the lawyer or consultant advertised on the webpage, do a new Google search for those names to see if it leads you to different contact information. Fraudsters will use the names of real lawyers and immigration consultants on the website to fool you.

Check the company’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. Does it seem like a real business or just a series of advertising?

Fraudsters and ghost consultants put a lot of time into tricking you into thinking that you are dealing with a reputable company so you should be prepared to put in some time for your own research to confirm that you are dealing with an honest business.

Financial transactions

Lawyers and Immigration Consultants (RCIC) will usually have a Trust Account. The Trust Account is overseen by their governing body. When you send money to a Trust Account, you can be confident that your money is safe. If there’s an issue, you can contact the Law Society or the Council to report the problem and it will be dealt with promptly.

You can ask the legal professional to send you information for their Trust Account (branch address, phone number, name of their account manager) and you can confirm that this information is true by contacting the bank. You should be able to pay for your legal fees with a credit card, cheque or wire transfer.

There is no protection for you when you hire an unlicensed consultant or other immigration agent, and their business is not ethical or honest.

Report a Suspected Crime Straight Away

The Canadian Anti-Fraud immigration department is constantly taking steps to put Scammers out of business. You can report any suspicious or criminal activities to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and make an official report to the Canadian government online.