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The money, $1,000 as an initial fee, was wired to a U.S. bank, which bothered Al-Americani. When he caught on to the scam, he seethed at the thought that someone could go to such lengths to prey on his family’s hopes of moving to Canada.
Others who have fallen — or nearly fallen — for the scam report noticing red flags, but sometimes ignoring them, blinded by the prospect of a new life abroad.
Eslam Emara, a Saudi man with 10 years of experience in transportation and logistics, caught on to the fraudsters. He was skeptical at every turn. He asked for proof of identity, scrutinized the companies’ websites, asked around on online forums and noticed holes in the Montreal Construction Group facade.
When the man calling himself Jackson asked for money, Emara said no. “That’s the time I had to say to them, ‘That’s bulls—. I’m not buying.’ ”
But it hurt him. A little part of him had been holding out hope, despite the red flags.
“It seems ridiculous, because I knew that it’s a fraud, but I was just dreaming on,” he said in a recent interview from Riyadh, uttering a laugh, then a sigh. He had hoped to immigrate to Canada with his wife and child. “It was one of our dreams to do something like this, so they gave us much disappointment.”
A convincing online network
The fake companies’ websites present a facade that at first is convincing to those targeted by the scammers.
But the slick sites don’t stand up to scrutiny. The Nova Recruiters site lists jobs that don’t exist. The Montreal Construction Group site is an exact imitation of a site belonging to a New Zealand company. It lists projects ostensibly completed by Montreal Construction Group that were completed by other firms. And the Canada Immigration Hub website features testimonials from satisfied clients — who aren’t real.