Migration fraud and scams

A scam is an attempt to intentionally mislead people to steal money, property, or personal information, or to dishonestly obtain something else of value.

Scams can occur in many forms–by post, email, telephone or on the internet. Some scams are easy to identify, while others might appear to be the real thing.

The information available on this page explains, how you can protect yourself from migration fraud and scams. People might give you false or misleading information in order to defraud you. We are aware that criminals around the world use scams about migration and visas as a way to steal money from people. Sometimes these criminals will use our name to make their story appear legitimate.

It is your responsibility to be vigilant and careful to avoid scams.

Current scam warnings

Keep yourself safe by knowing the current scams and trends that we are aware of.

Phone call scams

We have been made aware of a wave of scam phone calls currently taking place. The people making these phone calls are impersonating officers from the department or other government organisations.

The caller will usually insist that a fine be paid immediately as a penalty for an alleged error committed by the intended victim. We can confirm that we will not ask for payment of fines or penalties by telephone.

A common approach has seen visa holders receiving a phone call from an individual posing as an immigration official. The caller has the visa holder's passport and date of birth, and claims that the date of birth recorded is incorrect and needs to be updated for a cost. The caller claims that the visa holder will be deported if they don't make this payment.

Be aware this is a scam. If you receive a call of this nature, we advise that you hang up immediately and report the call to police in your state or territory, and to us on the Immigration Dob-in Service.

Email address scam

We have become aware of a scam that uses email addresses ending in '.pn' claiming to be from the department.

The scammer contacts a victim through a fake email address and claims to be from the department or another Australian Government agency. The email address used by the scammer is not a genuine departmental email address and ends in '.pn' . For example, immi@govt.au.pn or australia@immigrationapproval.com.au.pn.

Victims can receive an email unsolicited, after they register their details on a job seeking website, or after responding to a non-genuine employment ad. The person targeted will be asked to provide personal documents to the scammer, and will then be asked to make a payment through Western Union money transfer.

The victim might be told they have been selected in a 'resettlement programme' through an 'electronic ballot'. These scam emails have often been signed by a 'Hon. Thomas Smith'.

The victim might be contacted by the scammer pretending to be from a company. The victim is then taken through a fake recruitment process, and told to contact the department through a non-genuine email address ending in '.pn'.

Please be aware:

  • We will never send genuine emails from an email address that ends in '.pn'.
  • We will not ask you to make a payment directly to the department through Western Union.
  • We do not offer a 'resettlement programme' through unsolicited emails or an 'electronic ballot'.

If you have received an email that matches this scam we strongly recommend not responding.

Maritime scams

This scam is where a seafarer receives an email with a job offer from a scammer purporting to be from a cruise company.

The scammers are known to charge large sums of money (the equivalent of several thousand Australian dollars), to allegedly arrange an employment contract and visa for employment on maritime vessels travelling to or working in Australia.

Some of these scammers entice clients by showing them what appears to be valid visas on our departmental website. However, where these visas are obtained based on fraudulent claims they are subject to cancellation.

Some of the scams also imply that the scammers are collecting the money for the department or the department require the fees be paid.

If the information requested appears to be suspicious, you need to contact the relevant cruise company directly to verify if the job offer is legitimate. Use official contact details for the company. Do not use the contact details that have been received from the job offer correspondence.

More information about working in Australia is available on our website.

Related information is available on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority website.

Online dating and romance scams

Our posts outside Australia report a number of dating or romance scams. These scammers contact victims through email or internet chat rooms and claim to be single women (often from Africa or Eastern Europe) looking for a relationship. They then ask for money to help them visit the victim in Australia. This is usually followed by requests for more money for things such as their passport, travel insurance, fictional fees such as Australian government travel bond or bribes for various officials. They might also claim they have been in an accident on the way to the airport and need money for hospital bills. Known victims have lost up to AUD35 000 from these scams. There are also reports that victims have travelled to the country only to be kidnapped on arrival and held for ransom.

More details about dating and romance scams is available at SCAMwatch website.

Gold and gold romance scams

The gold or gold/romance scam is where the scammer tries to extort money out of a victim to release gold (usually a worthless imitation such as low grade brass), that has been seized by Customs or other authorities. The payment to Customs lends authenticity to the transaction, convincing the victim that the gold is genuine. The victim is often someone who the scammer has developed a relationship with, and they are led to believe they will receive some great benefit from the transaction.

Job offer scams

Scammers might target employment websites with false promises of jobs in Australia. People who respond to the job advertisement are then asked to pay for the Australian visa by lodging money into a bank account. No job exists and no visa application is lodged.

More information about job and employment scams is available at SCAMwatch website.

Protect yourself from migration fraud

People might give you false or misleading information in order to take advantage of your desire to visit or migrate to Australia. Becoming a victim of fraudulent activity could mean you lose your life savings or your identity, or have your visa cancelled.

Today, 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 might try to get you to provide private information that could be used to steal your identity, or trick you into paying them money.

Read the stories of people who became victims of fraud so the same thing does not happen to you.

Warning signs

Warning signs to look out 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–do not click on web links from strangers
  • unexpected emails requesting personal information or emails with generic greetings like 'Dear Customer' instead of your name
  • emails that claim recipients have been selected for resettlement to Australia
  • dating or romance scams, where supposed single, attractive women ask you to send them money to help them visit you in Australia
  • offers guaranteeing you a job with a very high income.

Internet sites designed to look like official Australian Government websites

Some websites offering visa services have been designed to look like official Australian Government websites. These websites might not be scams, however might require clients to pay a service fee over and above normal visa application charges.

Websites like these do not represent us or the Australian Government and do not have any influence on the application or visa decision process.

We are unable to provide any comment or support regarding the services advertised by these providers, and might not be able to update you on an application that has been submitted by one of these providers.

There is only one official Australian Immigration and Border Protection website providing visa services. Our official website is www.immi.gov.au.

Protect yourself from internet scams:

  • Check the web address—even if one character is different, it can mean it's a different website—all Australian Government websites end in gov.au
    Examples:
    www.immi.gov.au
    http://www.eta.immi.gov.au/
  • 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 (that is, https://)
  • If you're concerned about a website, do a web search to see if anyone has reported any problems with that site.

Common myths

Be aware of the following misleading immigration information, or 'myths' used by fraudulent operators.

Myth Fact
I can guarantee that you will get a visa to Australia
  • Only authorised officers from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection can issue you with a visa.
  • No-one can guarantee you will get a visa. Avoid internet sites and advertisements by anyone who claims they can 'guarantee' a visa.
  • A visa is only issued if your circumstances meet all the visa requirements.
Pay now to register for the migration program
  • We charge a visa application charge for most visas for Australia. A list of all applicable fees and charges is available.
  • The visa application charge only needs to be paid at the time you lodge your application.
  • At some locations outside Australia, a service charge might also apply when you lodge an application through a Service Delivery Partner.
This is a 'once in a lifetime opportunity', or your 'only' chance to travel or migrate to Australia
  • Australian visa officers do not telephone or email people offering 'deals'.
  • There might be a number of visa options for coming to Australia.
  • We will only contact you in relation to a visa application you have already lodged.
Only I can pay the department's fees. Give me the money and I will pay the department's fees for you.
  • Take responsibility for paying your own visa application charge. You can pay the charge directly to us. In some locations outside Australia, we have arrangements for visa applications to be lodged through service delivery partners. Details on the arrangements and how to pay​ for each country are available.
  • Make sure you know how much the visa application charge is. A list of applicable fees and charges is available on our website.
  • Australian visa officers will never ask you to deposit money into an individual's personal bank account or transfer money through a specific private money transfer company.
  • Make sure you get a receipt for any money you pay. Check that the receipt says what the money was paid for.
I have a special relationship with the department
  • No-one has a special or privileged relationship with us.
  • Statements such as 'skilled migration service provider', 'Australian Government registered' or 'department registered' imply a relationship with us and should be treated with caution. You will know whether someone is a registered migration agent as they will have the words 'Migration Agent Registration Number' or 'MARN' on their advertising.
  • We treat all applications in the same fair and reasonable way.
Don't worry—the department is still processing the visa
  • Ask for a copy of the confirmation letter issued by us.
  • If your agent cannot provide evidence of your application, you can contact us directly to see how your application is progressing.
  • After an application is lodged online, you will be issued a Transaction Reference Number. Use this number to go online and check the progress of your application. This is a free service.
  • Know what documents you need to submit with your application and make sure they are submitted.
  • If a visa officer requests further documentation, make sure it is submitted on time.
  • Stay fully informed about your application. You are responsible for your application and you should know what information it includes.
I need to keep your original documents (that is, passport, birth certificate or marriage certificate) to give to the department
  • Generally, we require certified copies of documents, not the originals. Registered migration agents can certify documents.
  • Service Delivery Partners will forward original documents to us if they are lodged with them.
  • If original documents are required, our visa officer will ask for them.
  • If you are lodging a student visa online, then your migration agent might need to see your original documents. If so, ask your agent to make a copy and return your original documents immediately.
  • Prevent identity fraud—do not leave your important documents with other people.

Unregistered migration agents

Under the Migration Act 1958, it is against the law for an individual in Australia, who is not a registered migration agent with the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority, to provide immigration assistance.

Using unregistered migration agents could leave you at risk of being given incorrect or misleading advice. Also, as you will not have the benefit of consumer protection, an unregistered agent might take your money without providing an adequate service or even any service at all.

When approached by someone claiming to be a migration agent, be careful if:

  • you are asked to pay upfront in cash only, and no receipt is provided
  • the fee seems extremely high
  • the 'agent' does not give you a contract or statement of services and fees
  • no office address is given and you are asked to meet at a café, pub or other public area
  • only a post office box or mobile phone number is provided
  • no Migration Agents Registration Number (MARN) is advertised – check with Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority if an agent is registered.

Remember, it is easy for illegal operators to copy a real website or build one that looks professional – when searching for a registered migration agent, use the link provided on the Register of Migration Agents.

More information is available at Immigration Assistance.

Reporting

If you know of someone who is involved in migration fraud, is operating illegally as an unregistered migration agent, or if you are a victim of migration fraud, report it to us through our Immigration Dob-in Service.

Suspected scams can also be reported to SCAM watch. It is an independent website run by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC).

If you have been scammed by an individual or group that is not in Australia, you might also want to consider reporting the issue to local police or consumer protection authorities in the country where you reside.

Last reviewed Wednesday 17 September 2014

Popular

Success stories

Artem Grigorev

As a boy growing up in Moscow, Artem Grigorev and his parents decided the uncertainty about civil society and safety meant the then–teenager would need to leave Russia and be educated abroad.

Read more...