Asylum Seekers being scammed through iTunes and Bitcoin

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Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) is warning asylum seekers not to fall for an extortion scam that demands payment in iTunes cards or bitcoin.
The IRB has printed posters in six languages warning refugees about the scammers, who threaten their targets with deportation if they don’t pay up.

“They’re asking asylum claimants for money, saying that there’s a pending investigation and they owe money to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, and to pretty much pay up,” said the IRB’s Line Guibert-Wolff.

Guibert-Wolff said the IRB first learned of the scam in December. She said refugee claimants were contacted by phone or email by people claiming to represent either the RCMP or the IRB. Some were instructed to pay in cash, while others were ordered to use iTunes cards or bitcoin.

She said a pending investigation prevents her from speaking in detail about the amounts the scammers demanded, or about how they were able to obtain claimants’ phone numbers and email addresses.

Warning signs

The Competition Bureau said extortion scams are generally on the rise and reminded people that no legitimate institution demands payment in iTunes gift cards.

The Bureau also warned retailers selling iTunes gift cards to look out for customers who:

  • Purchase more than $1,000 worth of cards.
  • Look scared or in a hurry.
  • Are either speaking on their phones or checking them repeatedly during the transaction.

The Canadian Council for Refugees has also warned its members, making copies of the IRB poster available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, and Hindi.

Guibert-Wolff said anyone who suspects they’ve fallen victim to the scam should contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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