Warning over unscrupulous migration agencies

by Ray Clancy on October 30, 2013

in Australia, Australia Immigration

Visa applicants are being warned to avoid unscrupulous migration agencies who are targeting people interested in migrating to Australia.

The repeated warning follows complaints which have recently resurfaced about AUSFIS, an offshore web based migration agency which is alleged to have induced individuals to pay for visa applications that were never lodged.

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Web-based migration agencies trick visa applicants into paying them money and never lodge their applications.

The website invites people to register their interest by submitting an online web form with their contact details said Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Michaelia Cash. ‘Once registered, applicants are contacted by phone or email and are asked to pay a fee ranging from $300 to $3,000 via credit card in return for an Immigration Package to Australia,’ she explained.

‘However, several users of AUSFIS’s services have alleged that, once payment has been made, they either hear nothing further, or receive an email advising they are ineligible to apply for a visa,’ she added.

Officials point out that where people have paid money by credit card to AUSFIS, or any other migration agency for a service they did not ultimately receive, they can contact their credit card provider and lodge a disputed payment grievance with them. The credit card provider may be able to retrieve all or part of the money paid.

‘AUSFIS has no influence on visa decision making and does not represent the Australian government. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has no record of visa applications lodged by AUSFIS,’ Cash pointed out, adding that the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) does not list any registered migration agents connected with AUSFIS.

Details of registered migration agents can be obtained from the MARA website but officials warn that scams can occur in many forms, by post, email, telephone or on the internet. Some scams are easy to identify, while others may appear to be the real thing.

It is easy for criminals to create websites that look professional and generate emails that appear to be from legitimate sources. These websites and emails may try to get applicants to provide private information that could be used to steal identities or trick visa applicants into paying them money.

Applicants are urged to check the web address. Even if one character is different, it can mean it’s a different website. Australian Government websites end in gov.au.

‘Visa applications that are processed through the department’s website can be tracked by our systems. The department recommends you use the official website for future applications so appropriate support can be provided,’ said a DIBP spokesman.

Other advice is to never enter private information unless it is a secure site and you know who you are dealing with. Secure sites are locked with a padlock in the browser window or secure URL at the beginning of the address.

‘If you’re concerned about a website, do a web search to see if anyone has reported any problems with that site. When searching for a registered migration agent, use the link provided on the Register of Migration Agents,’ added the spokesman.

Applicants should also watch for emails sent from free web mail addresses, such as a Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail account, unsolicited emails from strangers who are advertising a website and should not click on web links in these emails, and unexpected emails requesting personal information or emails with generic greetings like Dear Customer instead of your name.

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