A brash new scam on social media hijacked the identity of Canada’s immigration minister to defraud desperate refugees of thousands of dollars.
The fake Facebook profile of Ahmed Hussen spelled his last name with one “s” but used the same photos the minister has on his official Facebook page. The account’s information was written in Arabic and English.
CBC News was sent a link to the account by Dana Adil, an Iraqi Kurd who is a refugee in Turkey.
A month ago, the 35-year-old started posting his family’s story on Twitter and directly contacting reporters and refugee advocates in hopes of getting help with resettlement.
Adil and his family of six fled Iraq for Turkey after his village was attacked by ISIS. In January, he received a Facebook message from a scammer impersonating Hussen.
CBC News spoke to Adil with the help of an interpreter over Facebook Messenger video.
Adil said he fled Iraq in January 2016 with his wife, Ghareeba, and their four children after extremists attacked his village near Kirkuk.
“The day before I escaped, 150 ISIS members attacked the village where I was living.” Adil said in a cellphone video chat.
“I had to escape because I have two handicapped kids.”
Adil said his eldest son, Dastan,12, and youngest daughter Staesh, 2, were both born blind. He said he and Ghareeba don’t know the cause of their children’s blindness and cannot afford medical care.
Two weeks ago, he said, someone claiming to be the immigration minister sent him a Facebook message in the middle of the night.
Adil said the person sending the message refused to speak to him over the phone but communicated with him via text in English. Adil doesn’t know English so he had to send each text message to his sister in Iraq to translate the conversation.
In the texts, the fake minister offered to help Adil get permanent residency in Canada — for a price.
“Do you have the necessary requirements? It will cost you 3550$ for your entire family including tickets,” reads one of the texts.
When Adil responded by saying that that he didn’t have the money, the fraudster replied: “I can’t help you without money because immigration costs money … Canada has rules.”