Scammers posing as Home Office officials are targeting immigrants

22 Jul 15

UNITED KINGDOM

IMPACT – HIGH

What is the change? A sophisticated scam by individuals posing as Home Office officials is targeting foreign nationals in the U.K. The phone calls appear genuine because the callers possess personal details of the targeted immigrant, including passport numbers, mobile phone numbers, visa numbers and other private data.

What does the change mean? Foreign nationals should be suspicious of any calls that claim to be from U.K. authorities threatening deportation and demanding payment. The Home Office does not call customers to collect immigration fees by phone.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Tier 2 migrants and dependents appear to be the primary targets, but the scam could apply to all visa types.
  • Who is affected: All foreign nationals including dependent family members of the principal visa holder.
  • Business impact: Employers should be aware that scammers may have the personal data of their expatriate employees and that, as corporate sponsors, they may also be targeted. Employers may also want to review their security policies to make sure their employees’ personal data is protected.
  • Next steps: Employees should be reminded not to provide any personal information, including payment details, over the phone to anyone claiming to be calling from the Home Office. Individuals should report any suspicious calls or emails to their legal representatives and to the Home Office. Companies or employees who believe they have been victims of fraud or targeted for fraud should inform Action Fraud, either on the Action Fraud website or by phoning 0300 123 2040. Further information is available on the U.K. government’s web page describing frauds, tricks and scams.

Background: In recent days, foreign employees and their family members new to the U.K. have been phoned by individuals claiming to be from the Home Office, citing the immigrant’s private data and saying they are investigating claims that the individual’s immigration status is illegal. The callers have then asked for payment via phone to look into the matter.

Similar scams against immigrants have been reported globally, most recently in Australia, Canada and Singapore, and have been on the rise globally since 2013. Other permutations of these scams include fraudulent websites that mimic government sites, and emails and phone calls that spoof legitimate government emails and phone numbers.

BAL Analysis: Unfortunately, scams targeting immigrants are becoming more common and more sophisticated in their ability to access and misuse personal data. Anyone receiving calls demanding payment should report them to the police and Home Office.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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