“Welcome to Ontario Student Funding Bureau” begins the introductory message on a website that looks very much like an official government site, adding, “At first glance, the thought of financing an education might be overwhelming. It needs not to be.”
Such clunky language should be a dead giveaway that the site is not exactly on the up and up.
It might be unintentionally funny if it weren’t explicitly offering “free counseling services” to “New Immigrants in Ontario”, “Low income families in Ontario”, “Laid off work in Ontario”, and “Individuals with Disability in Ontario”.
So society’s most vulnerable people, basically, are the site’s targets.
You can probably imagine how overwhelming it is to be freshly arrived in Canada, whether you’re fleeing a war zone or not, only to be shaken down by a group of people whose method of earning a living is to register official looking websites, or otherwise impersonate government officials, for the purpose of separating money from new arrivals.
The site’s disclaimer is a .png image, meaning its text can’t be indexed by search engines. And it’s been blacklisted by security firm McAfee, which puts it in the category of “Malicious Sites”.
In addition to warning visitors that “This website is not affiliated with the Government of Ontario or any of their services,” it also stipulates that “You agree that you will not bring any claim personally against OSFB’s officers or employees in respect of any losses you suffer in connection with the website.”
The disclaimer, however, certainly doesn’t make their activity moral.
Telephone solicitation schemes in which scammers target immigrants, posing as immigration officials, threatening people with deportation or arrest unless the victim pays a sum of money, are happening right now, notes the Canadian government.
Phone scams shaking down immigrants have sprouted up in Calgary, Saskatoon, Toronto and elsewhere, with the scammers claiming that they’re calling from the Canada Revenue Agency or a foreign embassy and letting the victims know that they’re in trouble with the law.
The “Ontario Student Funding Bureau” site appears to be hosted by the Endurance International Group in Burlington, Massachusetts.
This particular website has also taken out print ads in an East Toronto community newspaper, offering a “free grant for training and living expenses” while directing people to their website.
Fraudulent websites can be reported to Public Safety Canada: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cbr-scrt/rprt-eng.aspx
Phishing campaigns and their url’s can be reported directly to Google: https://www.google.com/safebrowsing/report_phish/Captcha