If there is a large population in India that wishes to travel outside the country for education or to find jobs, there is also a high number of fraudulent immigration firms and individuals that feed on these dreams.
“In 2018, we observed a positive development, a 32 percent decline in visa fraud complaints that have been reported to VFS Global in 2018 over 2017,” said Vinay Malhotra, regional group COO – South Asia, Middle East and China, VFS Global, told Moneycontrol.
VFS Global is one of the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services company for visa processing.
Last year, the company received over 560 complaints regarding fake jobs or immigration offers. “Of the complaints received, over 120 were sent in the name of VFS Global regarding fake letters or emails, from entities falsely claiming to be associated with the company, mostly offering job or immigration services,” said Malhotra.
He added that “most of the complaints originated from South Asia (mainly India), followed by the Middle East. These complaints were largely for settlement and migration cases.”
There have been cases when individuals have received calls supposedly from VFS Global which would be followed up by official sending employment offer letters and other documents via email. After accepting the job or the immigration offer, the visa applicants are asked to deposit huge sums of money to a bank account, details of which are present in the letter.
Explaining the modus operandi of the fraud, Malhotra said: “A fake email ID is created from a non-VFS Global domain, and an email is sent to the prospective applicant. These email IDs are usually a variant of our official domain names, for example, vfsglobal-helpline.com, instead of vfshelpline.com. Like most fraudsters, sometimes even the VFS Global’s brand credentials (logo, official domain) are misused to mislead applicants.”
To spread awareness about such frauds, VFS Global has taken measures like strategically placing messages at multiple touch points to warn applicants to beware of fraudulent entities, such as SMS, call centre voice messages, fee receipts, consumer publications, posters, emailers, etc.
“Customers also need to be vigilant about the calls and offers they receive. It is important to know and remember that no VFS Global staff is authorised to guarantee jobs or other immigration prospects to any customer whatsoever. We also urge applicants to never publish their passport or visa application numbers on public domains or social media platforms, where scammers are constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities,” he said.
Cases of visa fraud do not just end dreams but sometimes end lives too. According to a report, Mohali, which saw a rise in the number of immigration fraud cases in 2017. reported a case of suicide due to immigration fraud. A man who had spent around Rs 2.5 lakh to Rudraksh Group Overseas Solution consumed poison outside the company’s office after the refused to pay his money back.
If searched online, the immigration firm is regarded as one of the best immigration consultancy offering services for immigration needs.
And there are more such cases where people have sold their land to pay travel agents to get work visas in Dubai, people landing in jail due to fake papers.
Earlier this year, when US conducted morning raids in a crackdown on foreign students staying in the US without proper authorisation, as many as eight student recruiters were charged of helping around 600 foreign citizens to illegally remain, re-enter and work in the US. These foreign nationals were enrolled in a fraudulent school as part of a ‘pay to stay’ scheme.
Last year, the Ministry of Tourism had issued an advisory saying that the “Government of India does not appoint any authorised agent to apply for e-visa on behalf of any applicant”.