Colleagues in the fraternity of immigration lawyers are reporting that a nasty scam is doing the rounds. It’s preying on the vulnerabilities of bona fide visa holders.
In one case someone purporting to be from “Homeland Security UK” (there’s no such organisation) told a client that he had entered the country illegally. The client was given the opportunity of leaving his workplace quietly to return home, collect his passport then be arrested, detained and deported. However the caller could ensure the client would be granted immediate bail if he sent £1,400 to a money gram account. There must have been other demands because this particular individual was swindled out of £3,000. In two other cases clients were telephoned by someone who said the migrant is suspected of being in this country illegally. There was a request for a payment of £1,900 to “look into this”. In a fourth case the basis of the extortionate demand was a request the client leave his work and go to his home so he could be interviewed about previous criminal convictions (there were none). This seems to be a widespread operation as reports have come from practitioners in reputable firms in London, Leamington Spa and San Francisco.
Thus far it seems the victims have been workers holding T2 visas but it’s only to be expected that students will be the next target group; we’ll shortly see an influx of foreign students entering the country in preparation for the start of the new academic year.
Leaving aside the obvious cruelty this scam is particularly pernicious as it undermines the rules and those who work in this field – whichever side of the fence they happen to be on. If you hear of the scam in your neck of the woods please report it to the police. I’d also be grateful for evidence in a form which I can pass on to the Immigration Law Practitioners Association which is monitoring developments.
A troubling feature of the scam is that the fraudsters seem to know the victims passport, visa and personal mobile telephone numbers. There have been previous indiscretions (remember the Capita text messages following hard on the heels of the infamous “go home” poster vans) but on this occasion I wonder if there’s been an unfortunate security leak at the Post Office. Why the Post Office? In May immigration practice was changed. Instead of being issued with visas in their home countries most migrants are now granted temporary entry clearance and required to collect their Biometric Identity Cards from a Post Office after they’d reached their destination in this country. Perhaps this ought to be referred to the Information Commission