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While Canada is generally considered a safe country, scams are not uncommon. In this post, we outline the most common scams in Canada - plus some additional scams immigrants need to be wary about.

Unfortunately, scams in Canada are a part of life. As a relatively wealthy country, Canadians are an attractive target for scammers from abroad. There are also scammers within Canada, with schemes designed to catch everyone off guard. Then, there are scammers who target immigrants specifically – both within and outside Canada. We’ll discuss common scams within these categories in this post so we can outsmart the scammers together.

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Common Scams in Canada

We reviewed the data from the Ipsos February 2023 poll and the Better Business Bureau 2022 Scam Tracker Risk Report to highlight some common scams:

Online Purchase Scams in Canada

The BBB reported that almost one third of scams (in Canada and the US) reported in 2022 were related to online purchase scams. These scams involve products that either don’t exist or are extremely low quality.

Some common online purchase scams include pet scams, pet supplies, digital devices, and vehicles.

Employment Scams

Employment scams are particularly risky, since they often result in the scam victim losing a larger amount of money – typically $1,500 USD or $2,000 CAD. They are also the scam that is riskiest for young adults between 18-24 (attention: IEC participants and international students!).

Here’s what these scams often look like:

  • Someone claiming to be an employer sends you a cheque for home office equipment, and they ask you to return the funds via an online transfer to cover the costs initially. The cheque will then ‘bounce’ and you will lose the money. Note that you may be asked to go to an interview and sign a letter of acceptance for these scams. The process can look like a legitimate position. But always be wary if your new employer asks you to send them money. 
  • Someone reaches out offering you a position and asking you to fill out an application. The applications asks for the personal information needed to steal your identity – such as your birthdate, SIN, or a photograph of your license. They then tell you they are no longer hiring (or just ghost you).
  • An offshore company wants to recruit you, all you need to do is pay a work permit fee.
  • Similarly, there are scammers who offer lucrative jobs for individuals who will first pay for ‘training’ or ‘registration fees’.

In other words, always be cautious if an employer asks you to transfer funds to them or otherwise spend money upfront. If they do ask, it’s likely a scam. Other red flags for employment scams include a quick (or nonexistent) recruiting process, vague job descriptions, or extremely high incomes for unskilled work.

Phone Call Scams

There are a wide range of phone call scams that are common in Canada, such as:

  • Tech support scams, where someone calls claiming to be able to remove a virus (or similar) – for a fee, of course.
  • Emergency scams, where someone calls claiming someone you love is in an emergency situation (locked up for a DUI, in a hospital awaiting treatment, etc). The caller will then ask you to pay a fee to help your loved one.
  • Cleaning or home support services, where a cold caller immediately asks for your credit card details for a service.
  • CRA scams, where someone says there from the CRA and you have a tax debt owing that you need to pay immediately. They often threaten jail or other penalties if you do not pay.
  • Bank scams, where someone claiming to be from your bank or credit card calls and says you need to immediately transfer your funds or risk losing it all.

If you receive a call like this, hang up immediately. If you’re concerned that it may have been a legitimate call, look up the company or government department number online via a reputable source and call them back.

Other quick tips to avoid phone scams include to not answer calls from unknown numbers and not responding to questions asking for personal information (even seemingly innocent questions like “Is this Mr. So-and-so?”).

Also, be cautious about returning calls to unknown numbers. There are pay-per-call scams that rely on curious callers returning a call from an unknown number that can rack up charges of hundreds of dollars per minute. It’s usually best to only return calls from unknown numbers if they left a voicemail.

Scams in Canada: Targeted Toward Immigrants

Housing Scams

Canada’s housing shortage has been dominating headlines for the past months. In fact, it’s a driving force behind the cap on international student permits in 2024.

Unfortunately, some scammers are cashing in on the tight rental market – and young adults (and we would guess international students) are disproportionately impacted by this scam.

This often involves a ‘landlord’ (scammer) posting photos of a rental property, then asking for various fees, like rental application fees, the rental deposit amount, and the first and last month’s rent.

This scam is tricky because it can look like the legitimate rental process. The fake landlords also have access to high quality photos, since real properties with virtual walkthroughs are being published all the time.

Here are some quick tips to protect yourself:

  • Don’t pay any fees until you have met the landlord (or their agent) at the rental property. You should see the property in person before sending money to a landlord. If you can’t visit the property, ask someone you trust to go on your behalf.
  • Only use cash transfer apps for monthly rental payments after you have moved in. Cash transfer apps are favoured by scammers, so it’s best to request that you pay your landlord via a payment directly to a bank.
  • Research thoroughly online. You should do a reverse image search to check whether the same property is advertised in multiple cities or across provinces, and you should check that the property appearance matches what you see on Google Street View.
  • Be very wary if it seems too good to be true – it probably is.

Immigration Scams

Guaranteed Entry or Fast Processing Scams

There are a number of scams targeting hopeful immigrants to Canada, including fake websites claiming to offer guaranteed entry to Canada or faster processing of your application. These are always fake – even if they look official or formal.

Fake Immigration Consultants

Fraud is a big problem in Canadian immigration – and there are, unfortunately, a large number of people posing as immigration consultants. They will promise high quality services (and often guaranteed entry or guaranteed job offers), in exchange for an upfront fee.

Read our list of red flags to watch out for if you’re hiring an immigration consultant or lawyer.

Or check out the list of exceptional immigration consultants across Canada that we’ve partnered with.

 

Tips to Avoid Scams as an Immigrant in Canada

These are some tips and tricks we’ve picked up along the way to avoid falling victim to these scams:

  1. Always be wary if someone tries to create a high pressure environment. If you find yourself feeling immense stress because you have to do something immediately, consider hanging up or stepping back to buy yourself more time. These pressure tactics are a favourite of scammers and fraudsters.
  2. Be cautious of anyone asking you to send large sums of money up front – whether that’s employers, landlords, or someone hoping you’ll buy a puppy. You should take steps to verify that they’re a legitimate provider before sending any cash.
  3. Stay up-to-date via reliable resources (like the Government of Canada’s Scam Smart webpage)

Finally, consider asking our community!

Scammers often rely on isolation tactics too. Take a step back and ask the Moving2Canada community if they spot any fraud.

You can join the Moving2Canada Express Entry Facebook group or IEC Facebook group to ask your questions there. When in doubt, it’s always best to double-check!

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    Led by Jenny Perez (RCIC #423103), Perez McKenzie Immigration is a Canadian immigration consultancy based in British Columbia, with offices in Vancouver and Whistler.

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