Beware of Fake Immigration Lawyers: Montreal Experiences Surge in Scams Targeting Vulnerable Newcomers

Montreal, Canada – The dream of starting a new life in Canada can quickly turn into a nightmare for newcomers who become victims of fake immigration lawyers. The Bar of Montreal, which represents local lawyers, has reported a significant increase in cases of fraud targeting one of the city’s most vulnerable populations. These fraudsters often charge exorbitant fees and provide mediocre immigration assistance, leaving their victims stranded.

According to the Bar of Montreal, victims of this scam come from various backgrounds, including wealthy investors and asylum seekers who arrive with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The organization recently launched a campaign to raise awareness about the issue, urging the public to verify the credentials of their immigration lawyers. The campaign advises people to be cautious of suspicious tactics, such as informal meetings, promises of quick results, or the absence of a formal contract.

The increase in immigration-related complaints in recent years has prompted the Bar of Montreal to take action. While they did not disclose the total number of complaints, they revealed that reports of fake lawyers have tripled between 2018 and 2022. In 2018, these cases accounted for 13% of all complaints, but they have since risen to 39%. However, these official reports likely represent only a fraction of the actual cases.

The surge in complaints could be attributed to the growing immigrant population or a better understanding of immigrants’ rights. Most of the complaints come from legitimate lawyers representing clients who have fallen victim to scams. These fake lawyers are often disbarred individuals or immigrants authorized to practice law in their home countries but not certified in Quebec.

To combat this problem, the Bar of Montreal recommends checking the Bar of Quebec’s online directory, which lists authorized lawyers’ information. Additionally, the campaign provides a list of verified resources for finding accredited representation. Entrusting your immigration file to a fake lawyer can have severe consequences on your settlement process in Canada, warns David Ettedgui, the president of the Bar of Montreal.

The consequences of falling for the scams can be devastating, as witnessed by Rose Ndjel, the director of Montreal immigrant service centre Afrique au Feminin. She shared the stories of two individuals who were ordered to leave the country after being deceived by fake lawyers. Many victims, however, hesitate to file official complaints due to fears of jeopardizing their immigration status.

The Bar of Montreal’s campaign is seen as a step in the right direction by Ndjel. She hopes that it will continue and expand, as lodging a complaint is crucial for holding fake immigration lawyers accountable. By addressing these complaints, authorities can address the concerns and protect the rights of those seeking to build a new life in Canada.

This report was first published on February 17, 2024.