An individual’s dreams to study, work and immigrate abroad can turn into his/her worst nightmare in no time. Increasingly, in different parts of India, gullible youngsters and job-seekers are getting scammed out of their hard-earned money on false promises of settling abroad. Lack of job opportunities and the prevailing gender inequality that come into play even in the case of educated and talented young women in India make them consider chances to migrate. These, coupled with the prospect of settling down in a country with better standards of living, make visas a highway for fraudsters to trap a handful of unsuspecting applicants.
Over the last few months, VFS Global, one of the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services company for visa processing, that partners with 52 client governments across the world, has been battling the issue of individuals posing as the company’s bona fide staff and defrauding people with the false promise of settling down on foreign shores. For two reasons, people easily fall for the trap as soon as VFS Global’s name is taken - firstly, the trust that VFS enjoys across the globe, and secondly, as it is the first point of contact to many of the embassies in India.
As technology becomes more sophisticated by the day, using spoofing software, a scammer can easily make it appear that the call has indeed come from an official and registered VFS Global phone number. The victim is then asked to verify the number on the official website, leading him/her to further believe the caller.
The caller backs the initial call to the visa applicant by sending fabricated job offer letters and official looking documentation through email. As acceptance of the job offer, or immigration opportunity, the email states that the applicant will have to make an upfront payment and also share their personal information to take things forward.
Unfortunately, a considerable percentage of visa applicants fall victim of this fraud and end up parting with a huge sum of money thinking the communication from VFS had indeed been authentic. VFS Global has taken serious note of this and is sparing no effort to reach out to visa applicants and to the general public, urging them to exercise caution.
How can one identify that a caller might be a scam operative:
1) When you receive emails with job offer or immigration promises from fabricated email IDs via personal email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, .co.in, etc.)
When advance payments to personal bank accounts are demanded with the threat of visa application rejection or deportation
2) When you receive pixelated and out-of-proportion VFS Global logo on the fabricated job offer letters and contracts
VFS Global has been issuing alerts through its call centres, SMS alerts, website updates, emails, etc. The message sent out is downright clear. That, no VFS Global staff is authorised to guarantee jobs or other immigration prospects to any customer.
As part of its digital literacy campaign, VFS Global has instructed visa applicants never to publish their passport or visa application numbers on public domains or social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook as scammers are constantly on the lookout for this.