International Students: Watch Out for these Scams!

By Conestoga College Modified on October 15, 2019

Newcomers are often targets for scams and extortion: learn how to recognize the signs.

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A shadowy figure holds a hand up to the camera, as though to say, 'Scammers, stop here.'

Because newcomers to Canada have a smaller network of local contacts, and are sometimes less acquainted with Canadian customs, they are often targets for scams and blackmail. International students in particular should be wary of potential dangers online. In this article, we will be talking about how some common scams happen, and how you can prevent them.

Blackmail through pictures and videos

How it Happens:

Individuals will pose as a friend, or someone of the opposite sex who expresses an interest in you. Then, they will request personal information, photos, or videos as an exchange. Once they get something from you (like a private picture or video), they will threaten to share that information online or to your family if payment isn't received. This is extortion!

Unfortunately, very little can be done to retrieve this information and prevent it from spreading. Prevention is best.

How to Prevent it:

  • Never share your personal information, even if they have shared a picture or video with you first.
  • Never send them the money.
  • Block the person on social media or messaging apps.
  • Report the incident to security, the International Office of your institution, or the police.

Housing scams


How it Happens:

A person places an ad online for a place that doesn't exist or doesn't belong to them. Then they ask for a deposit, you send them the money, and you never see the money again.

In this case, the scammer usually never wants to meet up in person — they often request cash or a wire transfer.

How to Prevent it:

  • Avoid transferring money to a landlord without having seen the unit in person or having someone you trust view the unit for you.
  • Avoid dealing in cash.
  • Look for proof outside of the ad that demonstrates that this landlord / property manager exists (like a professional website, corporation number, or a LinkedIn profile).
  • If you cannot visit the property, use Google Maps to ensure that the ad pictures are consistent with what you can see on the street view.

For more information on other housing scams, like the fake roommate scam, watch this video on YouTube.

3. Phone scams


How it Happens:

Someone calls you and pretends to be a government official (Canada Revenue Agency, Immigration, a home embassy), a police officer, or another government authority, and attempts to get personal information from you.

How to Prevent it:

  • Be on the lookout for aggressive language and threats of arrest or deportation. These are tactics scammers use.
  • Never give out your social insurance number and banking information to someone you haven't verified as an authority over the phone.

If you feel like you've been a victim of one of these crimes, please contact security services at your educational institution.

As always, student safety and confidentiality are our primary concerns, so reach out for support or more information when you need it. Conestoga College wishes you a safe journey in Canada.

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