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Bogus groups on Internet scam refugees

Bogus groups on Internet claim UN refugee affiliation in resettlement scams

The United Nations refugee agency today issued a strong warning about Internet fraud resettlement schemes in which bogus organizations claiming UN affiliation use chat groups and dating or fake websites promising settlement and employment opportunities in Europe and North America for up to $1,000.

“These are scams,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva of the ploys, which are directed to people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Once the victims have paid the fee the fraudsters disappear.

“UNHCR never charges refugees for resettlement or any other services. Resettlement to a third country is used by UNHCR usually for particularly vulnerable refugee cases. Any websites claiming to be associated with UNHCR and charging for resettlement services are fraudulent.”

The victim is lured into visiting phoney websites which claim to belong to UNHCR or other international organizations and provide deceptive information about resettlement and employment programmes for refugees.

“Unsuspecting victims are encouraged to apply to these sham resettlement programmes by paying an administrative fee which ranges from around $100 up to $1,000,” Ms. Pagonis said. “People are sometimes offered a 'discount' if they can get another five to 15 people to join the programme.”

Since becoming aware of the scams early this year, UNHCR has been working to close down bogus websites and inform potential victims about the traps. But as soon as one site is closed, others tend to pop up again somewhere else.

“One of the most effective defences we have is to inform the general public and potential victims that UNHCR never charges for resettlement,” Ms. Pagonis noted.

“We have no figures for how much these schemes, which seem to originate in different parts of the globe, have defrauded people. But we are remaining active in preventing and combating fraud in all areas of the resettlement process,” she added.

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