An international student in the area received an automated phone call in late September demanding CAN$2,500 or risk facing arrest, according to Peterborough Police Service. A second call came from someone impersonating a Peterborough Police officer and requested the student pay within two hours.
The student paid the money to the scammers via a bitcoin machine. It is not clear where the student affected is enrolled.
“Sometimes [international students] are seen as easy targets by scammers because they are new to the country”
Tracey McConnery, manager of English Programs and International Student Services at Fleming College told The PIE News this is the first incident of its kind the school is aware of.
Fleming College warned its 1,969 international students of scams at its orientation – a session it runs jointly with the Peterborough police. It largely focuses on making students aware of their rights in Canada, recognising and avoiding scams and how to feel comfortable approaching the police, McConnery said.
Since being informed of the incident by the police, the school has worked with the local New Canadian Centre, Trent University and the police to get the message out to students.
Students are attracted to the country by the perception of a safe community, McConnery added.
“When they come here, sometimes they are seen as easy targets by scammers because they are new to the country. They might not always be trusting of law enforcement… because they are worried about their immigration status [or] getting deported. It takes time to become aware of their rights and to feel comfortable in their new country.”
“While this is happening to a very small portion of our population of international students in Peterborough, one is too many,” she added.
Paul Longhurst, international student advisor at Trent University said criminals adapt their strategies by embracing new technologies and impersonating people in positions of authority.
“Unfortunately, [scammers] also often target vulnerable populations, which includes international students.”
Trent University offers a Scam Aware workshop during new student orientation and ESL introductory classes. Early education about the risks of scams is the best way of preventing students from falling victim, Longhurst added.
“International students are seen as easy targets for several reasons: as newcomers to the country, they often do not have a comprehensive understanding of Canada’s immigration and tax laws; they often speak English as a second language and may not fully understand what is being asked of them by the scammers,” Longhurst noted.
Scams targeting international students are nothing new, with The PIE News reporting similar cases in the UK earlier in 2018, while Chinese international students around the globe were also targeted in a “virtual kidnapping” scam.