Melbourne, October 4: The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning migrants to watch out for scammers pretending to be from the ‘Department of Immigration’, threatening deportation and demanding money.

The ACCC has received 300 reports about this scam since March, with more than $150,000 reported lost.

In one process, scammers inform the victim that there is an issue with their immigration status and paper work, which would be rectified only with a payment.

In another approach, scammers target people who are currently helping relatives relocate to Australia from overseas – and threaten that a relative has either been imprisoned or will be imprisoned if payment was not made.

“The scammers target migrants and temporary visa holders, claiming there are problems with their immigration paperwork or visa status and they need to pay a fee to correct the problem and avoid deportation.

“What we are seeing does seem to be particularly targeting the Indian community,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard warned.

“These scammers often glean personal information from social media, making the demands seem more legitimate,” Ms Rickard said.

“Recently, these scams have been going one step further, threatening the arrest of loved ones, or claiming they have already been arrested or detained. They demand payment through wire transfers or iTunes gift cards.

“Scammers may try to pressure you by calling incessantly and harassing you, even threatening to send the police to your house. Simply hang up and do not respond. If you give your money to a scammer, you will never see it again,” Ms Rickard said.

Ms Rickard emphasised that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) would never ask for wire transfers or iTune cards as a payment option.

“If in doubt, don’t use any contact details provided by the caller, instead look up the government department or organisation yourself in the phone book or online and phone or email them.”

The average loss reported to the ACCC by victims has been around $2600, so it is important to protect information about YOU.

Protect yourself

  • If you receive a phone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from the ‘Department of Immigration’ or any government agency telling you that you will be deported unless you pay a fine, hang up.
  • If you have any doubts about someone who says they are from a government department, contact the department directly. Don’t use any phone numbers, email addresses or websites provided by the caller – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search
  • Never send any money via wire transfer or any other means to anyone you do not know or trust.
  • Never give your personal information, bank account or credit card details over the phone unless you are sure you are speaking with a trusted source and you understand why the person is calling you. If you think you have provided your details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
  • Be aware of DIBP fees and charges and make sure you know why you have been asked to pay more.
  • Know your visa status and entitlements. The DIBP may not have any need to contact you so if you receive a call from someone claiming to represent the DIBP and you are concerned, do not provide your personal information and end the call.

You can report immigration fraud matters to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection through their Immigration Dob-In Service

Warning: Always seek information of the caller and never give information about yourself. If necessary call back on government listed phone numbers only

You can report scams to the ACCC via the Scamwatch Report page or by calling 1300 795 995.

Shalini Singh

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