Dear Mr Bassie,
I live in the United Kingdom and I am aware that there are a number of people who pretend to work for the United Kingdom Border Agency but are in fact fraudsters and also that there are a number of criminals around the world who use the name of the agency to steal money. What are some of the signs that a person should watch for?
Thank you for your email.
This seems to be a growing problem throughout the world, and as you can see, even the United Kingdom has not been exempt.
The United Kingdom Border Agency is aware that criminals are using websites to offer fake services; using email addresses that look official, but are not; and telephoning unsuspecting persons in the United Kingdom and in other countries. If a person receives an unexpected email, letter, or telephone call from a person claiming to be from the United Kingdom Border Agency, it may be a scam as the authorities will never contact you to ask for money or your personal details.
It is the usual ploy of the criminal to make the person in need believe that he can provide the individual with a visa to the United Kingdom very easily, or that there is a problem with the individual's application or visa. The criminal will try to sound convincing by using language that sounds official and may already know something about the applicant such as a name or an address or that an application has been made for a visa. The criminal will then ask for money or for personal information.
There are a number of scams that the authorities are aware of and the following are a few of them:
There are websites that offer jobs in the United Kingdom that do not exist. When a person applies for a job, the person is told that he or she has the job, and then the person is asked to pay visa and work-permit fees. This is not how the United Kingdom visa system works, and the authorities will advise that there are no shortcuts to obtaining a job in the United Kingdom. Normally, a genuine employer would direct the applicant to the British authorities, where an official application can be made. Usually, if the job offer sounds too good to be true, it could be a scam and the authorities will never guarantee a job in the United Kingdom.
Also, a Border Agency officer will never go to an applicant's home to ask or collect money from an applicant to process that person's application.
Another known scam usually starts with a call from a person who claims that he or she works for the United Kingdom Border Agency and informs the person that there is a serious problem with his or her visa. These persons not only contact people within the United Kingdom, but also persons in other countries, and they often target students. The criminal will appear to be genuine and convincing and may even give a false name and return phone number. Then he or she will tell the victim to send money as soon as possible to prevent some kind of serious action such as deportation or cancellation or rejection of a visa and/or application.
There are other ruses that are used to target those who are seeking United Kingdom work visas. The fraudster may ask a person to pay a deposit as proof that he or she has enough funds to support himself or herself in the United Kingdom until that person receives a salary. It should be noted that as part of the official application process, persons must give the authorities evidence that they have enough money to support themselves, but the authorities will never ask for money.
A criminal may represent that a visa can be obtained by using forged documents. The authorities do have advanced methods of identifying forgeries, and that person's application will be refused if a forgery is used. Also, if a person posing as an agent states that he or she can speed up the process of getting a visa, this is not true.
In addition, people who are not resident in the United Kingdom should be wary of a person who is pretending to be a United Kingdom visa officer. If such a person offers to meet them somewhere, it should be noted that legitimate visa officers will only meet applicants at their offices and will never contact applicants to ask for money.
There are also fake websites designed to look like official ones for the United Kingdom government or its official visa-enquiry services. A person should always get his or her visa information from official websites.
All of the above-mentioned scams have been reported to Action Fraud, the United Kingdom's national fraud-reporting centre; however, it should be noted that there may be others that exist about which they are unaware.
I hope this helps.
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.