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Refugees Targeted By Telephone Extortion Scams: Competition Bureau

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Warning: complaints about telephone extortion schemes are on the rise, and they're targeting targeting refugees and other newcomers to Canada.

Scammers are posing as Canadian government employees who threaten refugees with deportation or arrest if they don't transfer money right away, the Competition Bureau said last week.

Complaints about extortion phone scams grew to 15,000 last year — 10 times more than there were in 2014, Reuters reported.

Canada's Anti-Fraud Centre has logged at least 5,200 complaints this year already.

The Competition Bureau did not say how many of those complaints were about scams targeting refugees, but spokeswoman Marie-France Faucher said the warning was issued in large part because of the "arrival of a number of new immigrants and refugees to Canada over the past year."

Other scams threatening families, offering English lessons

The complaints come after the RCMP warned people about scams targeting immigrants in January.

Strongly-accented scammers with anglophone names would demand additional fees for application documents, and threaten victims with arrest, deportation, and separation from their children, CBC News reported.

Last year, Georgina Perez, an immigrant who has lived in Toronto since 2002, told the network that a fraudster demanded she pay a penalty for failing to file some documents with the Mexican consulate.

"For the first 40 minutes I thought it was legit and I was scared," she said.

"If there was somebody who doesn't understand English very well or someone who's been here for less time, for sure if they were close to a deportation they will do anything."

"For the first 40 minutes I thought it was legit and I was scared."

And in February, a Syrian refugee family in New Brunswick lost hundreds of dollars after a scammer offered English lessons, The Canadian Press reported.

The Competition Bureau says government and police officials will never contact individuals by phone or email to demand money or banking information, or threaten someone with deportation or arrest.

You should hang up the phone or delete the message if you receive any threats, the bureau advises.

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