After losing $7,000 in a scam, this newcomer to Canada has words of warning and a positive spin

A London, Ontario woman who has handed over thousands of dollars to scam artists hopes her story is a cautionary tale that will prevent other newcomers to Canada from being defrauded.

Saifora Ibrahim Paktiss moved to southwestern Ontario with her family in mid-December after being forced to leave Afghanistan. She chooses to focus on the positive reaction from those who stepped up to help her family after the scam rather than the fraudsters who ended up with her $7,000.

“I couldn’t believe something like this was happening in a country like Canada, where we heard about all the positive and good things,” Paktiss told CBC News.

“The community showed me love and affection, and they really gave me hope for a better life. I told my kids about it, that we really have to work hard and that we must be good citizens for this country which has really supported us in our difficult times.”

I didn’t give my money to anyone.”-Saifora Ibrahim Paktiss

Paktiss, her husband, three children and her sister-in-law came to Canada after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. They were brought here by the Canadian government because they worked for Canadian non-governmental organizations and feared for their safety. They were staying at a hotel in south London while finding permanent accommodation and assessing their financial situation.

“Three or four days after opening an account at the bank a call came and he said something had been taken at the border, there was a problem, they were calling from the border agency and they had something in my name,” Paktiss mentioned.

Need for education for newcomers

Saifora Ibrahim Paktiss says she wants resettlement agencies to educate newcomers about the various scams. 1:09

“They said there were 10 to 15 bank accounts in your name, there were a lot of other illegal transactions done under your name. I told them, ‘I’m not guilty.’ I was scared because I really didn’t want to have a criminal record I will need to live in Canada, I will need to work, have a career, so I didn’t want to start with a bad reputation. I didn’t even know about all these scams before.”

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Center said extorting money from people is a common scam, and while newcomers aren’t specifically targeted – the scammers use autodialers that make thousands of calls at a time and waiting for someone to pick up – they are more likely susceptible, because they don’t know about government policies or types of scams.

Sunk Money

“They manipulate caller ID and that makes it very believable,” said Sue Labine, who oversees the call center that takes reports of fraudsters.

Fraudsters kept Paktiss on the phone, obtained her banking information and forced her to go to the bank to withdraw cash before asking her to go to a convenience store to put cash in a machine. bitcoins. After that, the money becomes unrecoverable, Labine said.

Paktiss was then asked to go to a store to buy gift cards to make sure her credit cards were working. When the scammers asked her to start confirming her sister-in-law’s banking information, she refused.

“When I got home I told my husband that the border agency called me and said it was a scam, that I hadn’t given my money to anyone.”

So far in 2022, 14,200 cases of fraud have been reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center. More than 3,100 people have been scammed, totaling about $18 million in lost money, Labine said.

A hand

Paktiss spoke to the Cross Cultural Learners Center as well as the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, who were helping the family resettle. They reported the fraud to the police and attempted to recover the money from the convenience store’s bitcoin machine and the bank, but nothing could be done. The family had lost over $7,000.

When he heard about Paktiss being taken by scammers, Rob Stainton said he knew he had to do something.

Stainton started a GoFundMe for the family, which raised enough money to pay off a loan for first and last month’s rent.

“He came home and noticed we were sleeping on the floor, on the rug, and he was so sweet,” Paktiss said. “It was a big lesson for me and my family. We saw the love, care and attention Canadians have here.”

Members of the Stainton circle provided kitchen items and furniture to settle the family.

“Rob rented a truck and collected all the donations and brought them to our house,” Paktiss said. “I was quite discouraged because I had nothing to start my life with, but it was a very open welcome. They supported us with their love and their affection, and they really gave me hope for a better life.”

Now, Paktiss is advocating for the Cross Cultural Learners Center and other settlement agencies to include information about common scams in their information to newcomers, so others don’t get caught up in the same web.

“There should be practical information and videos in your orientation package because I have heard of two or three other newcomers to Toronto and these areas who have also been scammed,” she said. . “I think newcomers are easy targets because they might not even be aware of these scams.

“People need to know that the government does not contact or do anything by phone or email or whatsapp or text. They are just post mail. I really want to pass this message on to all new newcomers and others.”

Start a new life

Now in Canada for four months, Paktiss and her family are settling down. Her children, aged 12, 10 and 5, are going to school and thriving. Their English is so good that they don’t need extra ESL lessons. Her husband has a job and she was looking for one too, although the lack of Canadian experience thwarts her efforts.

Her new life is different from the 10-hour days she spent working at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul, but Paktiss remains hopeful. She’s applied for more than 100 jobs, as well as a PhD program at Western University — she has two master’s degrees — and a degree program at Fanshawe College.

“We live in a good community, my children are very happy with their studies and their teachers,” she said. “I have no regrets about coming to Canada.”