VFS cautions against visa fraud

VFS Global urges travel agents to be aware of fake visa and immigration scam by fraudsters posing as VFS employees and enlists these telltale signs that they need to be aware of.

n recent months, VFS Global, that partners with 52 client governments worldwide to provide visa services, has been faced with a vexing problem. A small but significant number of people who have applied for visas to various countries have been getting calls from fraudsters posing as company employees, giving them false promises of job or immigration prospects abroad. Vinay Malhotra, COO– Middle East and South Asia, VFS Global, reveals, “There have been instances when the initial phone call, supposedly from VFS Global, would be followed up by officiallooking employment offer letters and other documents, sent by email. In acceptance of the job or immigration offer, the visa applicants would be asked to deposit huge sums of money to a bank account, details of which could be found in the letter.”

Investigations into the matter have pointed to misuse of technology, where fraudsters zero in on easy victims. Unfortunately, some unsuspecting visa applicants, raring to start life anew in a foreign locale, have readily parted with the amount. Malhotra adds, “The modus operandi is fairly similar: they may pose as employees of the organisation and promise job or immigration opportunities to applicants. Using ‘spoofing’ software that masks the original number, the initial phone call shows that it has been made from an official VFS Global phone number. The victims are then asked to visit the company’s official website where they can find the same number. In due course, further ‘authenticating’ documents, such as official job letters and other offi- cial notifications, are sent to them via email.”

If the visa applicants are happy to accept the offer that has been made, they are then asked to make a lumpsum payment without delay to a bank account, also provided in the email. Wherever applicable, the scamsters use the veiled threat of visa rejection or deportation if funds are not deposited. Further, they also seek personal information of the applicant under the pretext of re-validating details.

With an increase in the number of instances of such fraudulent operations taking place, misusing the name of VFS Global, the company has begun to take proactive measures to warn applicants of this menace. Malhotra says, “Through our call centres, SMS alerts, website updates, emails etc, we are sending out messages that no personnel or representative from VFS Global is authorised to guarantee a job or immigration to applicants in any of the client countries. Also, VFS Global has categorically stated that applicants should not make upfront payments and refrain from giving out personal information to anybody. They should also avoid publishing their passport number or visa application number on public domains or social media platforms.”

 

These should set alarm bells ringing

  • If you receive emails with job offers or immigration promises from personal email accounts (such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc.)
  • When pixelated and out-of-proportion VFS Global logos are seen on official-looking documents, such as an employment offer letter or similar contractual documents