A North Vancouver couple applying for a green card to the United States has been scammed out of more than $1,600, according to police.
The husband and his pregnant wife applied for the immigration document, which would have allowed them to move closer to family in California, through the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which was to issue 50,000 green cards to randomly selected applicants this year.
Earlier this month, the couple received what seemed to be an official email from the U.S. Department of State, saying they had been among the lucky few chosen. The message came complete with the departments official logo, website link and so on, according to the victims.
The applicant followed instructions to use Western Union to pay a visa processing fee of $1,638 to a U.S. embassy agent in London, England. The victim said the address in the email was the correct address for Londons U.S. embassy.
After receiving no payment confirmation or update on his application, the man realized he had been cheated. Thats when he called police.
Whats a bit concerning about this one is someone had access to people who are applying for green cards, said North Vancouver RCMP Cpl. Richard De Jong. Unless the scam relied on random luck, he added.
In all these situations, its very prudent to check out the source . . . before parting with your money, said De Jong. Electronic fraudulent crimes hold no boundaries or borders and often these people can be in another country and through the Internet (defraud) victims all over the world.
This particular ploy appears to be growing in popularity, according to the U.S. Consulate, prompting the U.S. Department of State to issue a scam alert recently in regards to emails requesting payments from visa lottery applicants.
The department does not communicate with immigration applicants through email, it said, except to direct the applicants to check their status on the official website. It also noted that official emails would not contain any important information, and legitimate government web addresses all end with the suffix .gov.