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Fraud Prevention Month is an annual public awareness campaign held in March that works to prevent Canadians from becoming victims of fraud by helping them “Recognize it. Report it. Stop it.”
2015 marks the eleventh anniversary of the annual education and awareness campaign that began in 2004. Spearheaded by the Competition Bureau, Fraud Prevention Month brings together 125 law enforcement agencies and public and private sector organizations to combat fraud.
During the month of March, the Bureau and its partners in the Fraud Prevention Forum carry out numerous activities and host a variety of events to inform Canadians about the impact of fraud and how to protect themselves. The Fraud Prevention Forum, a group of private sector firms, consumer and volunteer groups, government agencies and law enforcement organizations, works to fight fraud aimed at consumers and businesses. 2015 is the second year the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) has participated in Fraud Prevention Month.
The ICCRC is the national regulatory authority designated by the Government of Canada to safeguard consumers who seek Canadian immigration advice and representation. Canadian law requires that immigration professionals who provide Canadian immigration services for a fee must be registered with ICCRC and accredited as Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants.
In recognition of Fraud Prevention Month, the ICCRC is launching a global campaign to inform immigrants and their families about the dangers of using unauthorized immigration consultants.
This month, the ICCRC urges consumers of immigration services to be vigilant when seeking professional assistance to immigrate to Canada as there are many illegal operators, commonly known as “ghost operators”, who take advantage of refugee claimants and immigration applicants struggling to navigate Canada’s complex and changing immigration system.
Since its inception in 2011, the ICCRC has received more complaints against ghost operators than licensed members. Complaints against unregulated consultants have increased each year, from 190 in 2012 to 711 in 2014. Although the ICCRC accepts and records complaints against individuals who are not members of the ICCRC, they have no authority to take action against them. According to ICCRC chief executive officer and president Bob Brack,
“All we can do is accept the complaints and pass them on to CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency). We do everything we can, but we are a small organization of 25 staff.”
Citizenship and Immigration Canada said in a statement that the department takes all immigration fraud very seriously and has cracked down on crooked consultants by making it an offence for anyone other than an accredited immigration representative to offer immigration services for a fee. Ghost operators who are prosecuted are subject to punishment by up to five years in jail and $100,000 in fines. Immigrants who take advice from these unscrupulous operators are at risk of having their application denied, as according to Brack,
“Unauthorized representatives are not trained or regulated, and take money for services they cannot provide, which often leads to the refusal of applications that might otherwise be approved. Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants are highly trained and effectively regulated, so their clients can be sure that they are getting the best advice and representation possible.”
The ICCRC website lists all of the members and agents who are Regulated Immigration Consultants and is the best way to ensure a consultant is registered.