Immigration Corner: How can I spot a scam?
Dear Mr Bassie, In a previous column you had outlined some of the scams persons have to be aware of when making visa applications. How can persons protect themselves against these criminals?
In considering how persons should protect themselves, they should be suspicious if what seems to be on offer is too good to be true. A person should be suspicious if, say, what is on offer is obtaining a job easily in the United Kingdom, or the path to getting a United Kingdom visa quickly and easily. If the persons offering the service ask for money, particularly if they ask for cash, or that payment is made using an insecure payment method such as money transfer, or money order which may be bought at a shop, as these methods do not allow the recipient to be traced.
A person should also be aware if such persons ask for one's bank account or credit card details, confidential information, if they demand secrecy or try to force you to act immediately.
Other telltale signs may include but are not limited to a website which does not look professional, badly written or designed and/or does not include any information about the organisation, also, if persons are asked to reply to a free email account such as Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, or Gmail, which may contain poor grammar and spelling.
Please, be aware, the United Kingdom government does not use this type of email account to contact an applicant.
Persons should always seek to get information from official websites. It should be noted that official United Kingdom government websites always have '.gov.uk' at the end of their website address. The official Home Office email addresses are always in one of two formats:
It is also worth noting that the following are the formats of official Foreign and Commonwealth Office email addresses:
Please be aware that sometimes the email address that may be seen on the screen of a fake website or in email could be in that format. however when an unsuspecting person clicks on it, the website creates an email that will be sent to a different address. Therefore, it is important that persons always check the actual address on the email that it is being sent to.
It is important to note that, if suspicious, persons should not give out any personal information, or confirm that any personal information that the party has is correct, and do not pay any money.
Just for completeness, if a person believes he/she has been a victim of fraud or targeted for fraud, and is present in the United Kingdom, that person may report any suspicions to Action Fraud, either on the Action Fraud website or by telephoning 0300 123 2040.
Action Fraud provides a fraud-reporting and advice centre, where people and small businesses can report fraud, attempted fraud and scam emails. When such reports are made, these will then be passed on to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and analysed to see if they can be used as part of a police investigation.
- John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (U.K.). Email:firstname.lastname@example.org