A student from Pakistan studying at St. Mary’s University in Halifax says he lost $6,000 in a phone scam that threatened his arrest on charges of terrorism.
Mehran Durrani, a geology student who works two jobs, said he received a call from someone claiming to be an agent from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) on March 28th. The caller knew his address and told him that he was suspected of being involved in “anti-social/terrorist activities.”
While he was on the phone, he got another call and answered at the fake CIC agent’s request. On the other call was a person claiming to be from the Halifax Regional Police (HRP). He checked the phone numbers for both the HRP and CIC and says both matched the numbers of his calls.
“They used my fear of being a foreigner in a country.”
He says he was then asked to merge the call with the supposed immigration officer and the two got into an argument, with the immigration officer asking for more time and the police offer refusing. Durrani also states that the fake immigration officer made him navigate to the CIC website and read through information on detention review processes to convince him of the severity of the situation.
At that point, Durrani was told there was a warrant for his arrest and he was facing 48 hours of detainment unless he paid for a counsellor who could review his background and potential criminal records and clear his name. He then sent about $6,000 through Canada Post’s MoneyGram service and Western Union, which the scammers promised to reimburse once the background check was complete.
“They’re really good at scamming people and they have different ways of getting into people’s heads,” Durrani told the CBC.
“Like for me, for instance, they used my fear of being a foreigner in a country and they specifically targeted a guy… like me, being a Pakistani and brown and being a Muslim. He knew that I was going to panic if I got a call from government officials.”
Const. Diane Penfound told The Canadian Press that police are investigating the alleged scam, but said it’s difficult in these cases to determine where the calls originate.
Meanwhile, Durrani’s friends started a GoFundMe page to raise the $6,000 he lost, and has nearly achieved the goal within ten days.
Image credit: Zain Bilgrami via GoFundMe