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Warning against internet resettlement fraud

Briefing notes

Warning against internet resettlement fraud

15 November 2005

We want to issue a strong warning about internet fraud concerning resettlement. Bogus organisations, claiming affiliation to UNHCR, are using internet chat groups, dating websites and fake websites to promise resettlement and employment opportunities in Europe and North America for a fee. These are scams.

Just to be clear, 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.

In these internet resettlement scams, fraudsters infiltrate chat rooms, special interest groups and dating websites, befriending men and women in Africa, Asia and Latin America who may be interested in immigrating to an industrialised country. The victim is lured into visiting phony websites which claim to belong to UNHCR or other international organisations.

These fake websites 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 US$100 up to $1,000. People are sometimes offered a 'discount' if they can get another five to 15 people to join the programme. Once the victim has paid the fee, the criminals disappear with their money.

Since becoming aware of these internet scams early this year, UNHCR has been working to close down bogus websites and to inform potential victims about these frauds. 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. 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.