Overseas fraud: an increasing threat to the safety of Canadians

Many Canadians are still being victimized and cheated out of merchandise, services and money by fraudulent activity in another country. The information on this page will help you recognize overseas scams and take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

We have received reports that some Canadians may have received false or misleading messages that appear to be from Global Affairs Canada.

Emails: If you receive a suspicious email, please verify the sender. Our messages to Canadians abroad are sent from either sos@international.gc.ca or another Government of Canada email account ending with @international.gc.ca.

Phone calls: If you receive a suspicious call, do not provide any financial information. Contact the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate to verify that the call is legitimate.

On this page

Commercial or professional scams

  • a foreign company needs you to send a fee or merchandise to obtain a contract with its government
  • someone offers to sell you merchandise, such as crude oil or precious stones, and offers to do business with you if you travel to the country
  • an email promising to help you obtain a visa or guaranteeing you a job abroad
  • a request for a charitable donation to an organization that asks for information on which bank account you will use
  • a loan offer from a shadow bank in a foreign country that needs your personal information to open an account
  • a customer or supplier asks you to make a payment to a local official
  • a customer is trying to pay through an apparently unrelated business in a third country
  • a customer is asking that a refund be sent to an apparently unrelated business in a third country
  • an unsolicited email from a foreign company is seeking Canada-based representatives to establish a business presence in Canada, and, more importantly, to transfer payments from Canadian or U.S. customers
  • criminals gain information about your corporate payment systems, then deceive your employees into transferring money into their bank account

Personal scams

  • an online marriage scheme that results in your being the victim of extortion by in-laws living abroad or being forced to sponsor a spouse who will abandon you after arriving in Canada
  • a fake foreign organization promises you an inheritance, a prize or money and asks you to pay for mailing costs or taxes
  • someone promises you a financial reward in exchange for wiring money through your personal bank account
  • a con artist poses as a foreign doctor or health care professional and tells the friends or family of a Canadian traveller abroad that he or she is in hospital and needs money for medical treatment
  • a con artist pretends to be a Canadian traveller and contacts friends or family saying he or she is stuck in a foreign country after being robbed, injured or kidnapped and needs money to pay for hotel or hospital bills, visas or airplane tickets
  • someone starts an online friendship or cyber-romance with you, then claims to want to come to Canada and asks for money or help to get an entry visa
  • someone pretending to be the mother of a child or a lawyer trying to find an adoptive family for a child in a desperate situation posts an ad for a private adoption, often providing fake photos of a child
  • a fake organization informs a former fraud victim that it has caught the con artist and promises compensation for the losses incurred the first time
  • an imaginary foreign funeral home sends a death notice, often using counterfeit identification, to the loved ones of a Canadian traveller asking them to send money to repatriate the body to Canada
  • fake agencies offering vacation home rentals using false addresses and altered photos of the rental property

Scams can not only cause great financial losses, but many can also be a serious threat to the personal safety of the victims. Many victims are convinced to travel to a foreign country to complete a business transaction, accept a job, get married or to try to recover money sent to the scammer. This can result in violent situations, including kidnappings and forced imprisonment. Canadian consular officials may not be able to help you.

Warning: increasingly common and sophisticated scams

Every day, more Canadians request consular assistance after a scam has caused them to fear for their safety. The number of victims will continue to rise. In many countries, con artists operate without consequences because local authorities often do not have the physical or financial resources needed to combat Internet crimes.

Organized fraud networks are developing more and more innovative and sophisticated scams to deceive and extort money from their victims. They conduct extensive searches to create credible documents, complete profiles of fake businesses, medical reports, or falsified export certificates. The names and logos of reputable organizations, governments and government agencies are often used illegally. Websites that appear very convincing are also falsified.

Some con artists pretend to be Canadian embassy staff, such as consular officers and even ambassadors. If you are approached by someone claiming to work for a Canadian government office abroad who suddenly offers to help you, verify his or her identity by contacting the embassy or consulate where he or she claims to be employed.

Protect yourself

Carefully investigate any unsolicited business proposal before you send any money, provide a service or merchandise, or make travel arrangements.

  • verify your contact’s identity online. If he or she is a professional (doctor, lawyer, member of the police force), check with the country’s professional association, without using the contact details that he or she provided
  • be wary of any unsolicited business proposal. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
  • treat any request for money with suspicion.
  • before completing a transaction, check to ensure that the proposed method of payment is legitimate, or demand full payment in advance
  • be wary of requests for signed and stamped blank letterhead or invoices
  • be cautious of solicitors claiming that your name was provided by someone you do not know
  • watch for professional messages written with poor grammar or in an inappropriate level of language. They should usually be written in the country’s official language
  • be careful if you receive a job offer that seem too good to be true (unrealistic salary, paid vacations, extended holidays) or that requires you to pay for initial travel or required documents
  • never disclose your banking information, even if the solicitor claims to need the information to deposit a signing bonus
  • check the entry requirements (visas) and immigration policies in the country you plan to visit on business. No outside organization or agency should be involved in issuing travel documents. Visas cannot be obtained by submitting a letter personally addressed to an immigration officer.

Travelling to meet someone you met online

  • verify the identity of the person you plan to meet abroad
  • keep in mind that unsuspecting individuals have been used as drug mules by people they met online
  • remember that marrying a Canadian citizen can be a way for a foreigner to obtain an immigration visa. A number of Canadians have left their jobs and their homes and have sold all of their belongings for a marriage abroad that ended up failing or that never took place.
  • find out in advance about the laws and customs on relationships and marriage in your destination country 
  • travel to the destination country with a return ticket and enough money to stay in a hotel, and keep all of your travel documents in a safe location. Keep the contact information for the nearest Canadian government office abroad, in case a problem arises.

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

Stay up to date on current scams, find additional information and report incidents by visiting the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website.

If you need help

Contact the nearest Canadian government office abroad or call our Emergency Watch and Response Centre at +1 613 996 8885 (call collect where possible) if you:

  • need assistance abroad after a fraud attempt
  • need help to return to Canada
  • feel you will be unfairly treated under a country’s laws
  • doubt the legitimacy of a request for help from someone you know who is supposedly having difficulties abroad

The Government of Canada cannot intervene in private legal affairs, and has no influence over another country’s legal proceedings. However, consular officials can provide you with a list of lawyers in the country in question. For more information on the services offered by Canadian consular officials, visit our Assistance page. 

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