Dear Mr Bassie,
I am aware that there are a number of immigration scams being played on unsuspecting people applying for visas. My query is, what can unsuspecting persons do to protect themselves?
Any advice would be appreciated.
Thank you for your question.
A person should be suspicious if what the person is offering seems too good to be true. For instance, the criminal may make the offer of obtaining a job in the United Kingdom easily or the opportunity of getting a United Kingdom visa quickly and easily.
The criminal may ask for money, in particular be wary if they ask for cash or to pay using insecure payment methods such as money transfer, Ukash voucher or Paysafecard, which may be bought at a store. These methods of payment do not allow the recipient to be traced. In addition, the fraudster may ask for the victim's bank account or credit card details, or confidential information. Other telltale signs are that the criminal may demand secrecy or try to force the victim to act immediately.
If a person accesses a website, if it does not look professional, that is, it is badly written or designed, or does not include any information about the organisation, then he or she should be wary. Also, if a person is asked to reply to a free email account such as hotmail, Yahoo mail, or gmail, be aware as the United Kingdom government never uses this type of email account to contact an applicant.
Hence, a person should always get his or her information from official websites. Official United Kingdom government websites always have '.gov.uk' at the end of their website address. It should be noted that official United Kingdom Border Agency email addresses are always in one of two formats, and these are: email@example.com; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
However, a person must be aware that sometimes the email address that is seen on the screen of a fake website or email is in that format, but when he or she clicks on it, it creates an email that will be sent to a different address. Hence, an applicant should always check the actual address on the email you are sending.
If a person making enquiries or applications becomes suspicious: he or she should not give out any personal information, or confirm that any personal information the other party may have is correct. Also, that person should not pay that person any money.
Once suspicion has been aroused, then the suspicion should be reported to Action Fraud, either on the Action Fraud website or, if in the United Kingdom, via telephone by phoning 0300 123 2040.
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: email@example.com.