EDMONTON -- Those hoping to come to Canada for school are being victimized by scammers who promise to help them, according to Edmonton police.

Police say they received 17 reports of such scams in 2019, with 16 victims reporting an overall loss of more than $730,000.

The scam typically unfolds like this: immigrants going through the process of coming to Canada on a student visa are contacted online by someone claiming to know an immigration attorney.

In one case, a person posing as an immigration lawyer connected with Hadil, a Palestine resident attempting to come to study at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

"[He] identified himself as an immigration attorney with CANADIM, and even sent her their website to confirm the legitimacy," police said in a release.

While CANADIM is a legitimate immigration law firm, the man was not affiliated with the organization, according to police.

The scammer said her study permit would cost $2,990, payable to his assistant, and she agreed.

He then told Hadil she would have to register at a Canadian school and pay $6,095 USD to the Dean of International Students.

That raised red flags for Hadil's brother-in-law Mohammed, who lives in Edmonton. He called CANADIM to verify it was the regular process to register.

"This phone call confirmed Mohammed's suspicions, as CANADIM confirmed the receipt he was given was not from their organization," police said.

She ceased all contact with the fraudster and reached out to police, who helped her recover $2,700 USD of the money she had already sent.

Police found that the scammer was using a phone number from Nova Scotia, while a number being used on WhatsApp was from Abilene, Texas.

Edmonton police said many immigration fraud victims are convinced of scammers' claims out of fear.

"They have come to Canada to build a positive life for themselves and their families, and they don’t want to lose what they have," police said.

Anyone claiming to be from a foreign embassy, border guard or immigration attorney's office should be verified before you act on what they say.

"Please don't be afraid to come forward and find the organization's legitimate contact details to ask what is real."


This story has been amended to clarify that CANADIM is a legitimate immigration law firm. The scammer was posing as an immigration attorney affiliated with CANADIM.