Regina woman gets scary call from 'immigrant tax' scammers

A Regina family is warning people about a phone scam that appears to target new Canadians.

Woman was told RCMP would haul her away if she didn't pay $750

Ali Khan says phone scammers tried to extract a $750 payment out of his wife Seema. (Abby Schneider/CBC)

A Regina family is warning people about a phone scam that appears to target new Canadians.

Ali Khan and his wife Seema are coming forward with their story about being victims of a fraud attempt. They want immigrants and newcomers to be aware of the dangers phone scammers pose.

Seema arrived in Regina as a permanent resident in December, but when she got a phone call last week, the voice on the other end told her she'd be arrested and deported, Ali said.

The caller said she owed $750 in "immigration tax" that she was supposed to pay at the airport in Toronto. 

They were very nasty.- Ali Khan says his wife was shaking after getting a call from a phone scammer

He said payments could be made by credit card and if she didn't pay up, she'd be arrested by the RCMP within half an hour.

The caller knew her arrival date, her home city in Pakistan, the number of children she had, her Regina address and her immigration file number.

In addition to Seema being deported, Ali would be fined $20,000 because he sponsored her, the caller said. 

"She was shaking," Ali said. "They were very nasty."

Scared and confused, Seema told her caller to phone her husband.

When he called the number back, he got a message saying it's an overseas number.

They soon confirmed there is no such thing as an "immigration tax." 

Jan Volzke, founder of the California company NumberCop, says the Regina family has apparently been targeted by a phone scam that's been in operation for several years.

People should yell about it, tell everyone they know, report it to the authorities.- Jan Volzke, founder of NumberCop

Typically, scammers try to get immigrants to fill out "visa forms" when they are in their home country, then use the detailed information to try to defraud them, said Volzke, whose company works to protect people against phone scams.

Unfortunately, the callers may use the information for follow-up payment requests or sell the information to other scammers in the underground market, he said.

Volzke said Ali and Seema are doing the right thing by going public with their experience.

"People should yell about it, tell everyone they know, report it to the authorities," Volzke said.

With files from Evan Radford


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