Anna Filina

Experience With Immigration Fraud

April 13th, 2016

As you may know, I organize a conference that gets many international speakers and attendees. Although many of them have no issue travelling to Canada, some require a travel visa, which means that the Canadian embassy in their country will grant them permission for a temporary stay. Citizens of some countries have an extra step where they need to get an invitation letter. This letter is provided by a Canadian citizen directly to the person, which they in turn bring to the embassy to apply for a visa.

As an organizer, this is something that I do every year for some of my speakers. Every year, dozens of potential attendees contact me for an invitation letter.
In the past, I asked people to buy a ticket before I provided them with such a letter. Some of them were obviously just trying to use our event to get in, because I never heard from them after asking to buy a ticket. Others were legitimate attendees and I met them in person later at the event. The purchase was a filter, because otherwise it would have been too easy to just get the letter and come to Canada. I can't say to my government that this person will come to Canada to attend our conference if that's not guaranteed, which is why those tickets were also non-refundable. It would have been easy to purchase, apply for a visa and immediately get a refund.

But in 2016 something new happened. I got purchases from 5 guys who worked for the same company. That made sense, but before I finished preparing the letters, I got a transaction dispute. The cardholder, through their financial institution, reported that transaction as fraudulent. When I checked, the cardholder was in the USA, while the attendees were from Mali. I immediately refunded all 5 transactions. But wait, more transactions kept being flagged as fraudulent. They actually bought more than one ticket each. That was unnecessary, but reinforced my belief that they stole a bunch of credit cards to try and get in as many people as they can though conferences. I even checked the rejected purchases: I found dozens more. They got their hands on a database somewhere in the USA and just kept trying cards one by one to meet our invitation letter requirements.

Here is how it looks from my side: five people used stolen credit cards to try and commit immigration fraud. I made the decision to no longer provide invitation letters to attendees. It's too much work and risk for too little reward. Educating one or two extra people each year is nice, but letting such thieves (or worse) into my country isn't worth it. I'll still do it for speakers, since they have already been "interviewed".

Some of you are conference organizers. I won't tell you how to deal with invitation letter requests, but hopefully this will give you some insight and help you make a better decision.


Anonymous Coward May 6th, 2016 Sorry to hear about such fraud but making wrong assumptions doesn't do you any good either. Those who used stolen credit cards to buy the conference ticket or plane ticket whatever are thieves and criminals but changing them to immigration fraudsters just shows your ignorance or your self-assigned supremacy. You are not just undermining your own government's immigration process but trying to convince others not to provide invitation letters to other conference organizers. Like it or not, this is just plain and simple racism and you are trying to spread wrong virus on the community.

Your invitation letter is no blueprint for the Embassy to provide them visa, they do their own processing and background check, then after that even if they get visa, the border control has their own check (It says clearly in Canadian visa that Visa doesn't entitle one to visit Canada) if the border control has some doubts, the person is back to where they came from without setting a foot in Canada.

I am not sure why PHP Weekly posted your blog in the newsletter, if it was not posted I'd have never visited here to read your racist and self supremacy thoughts.

Another thing, buying a non refundable place ticket before getting visa is also plain stupid and anyone with sound mind would refrain from that. As I said earlier your invitation is not blueprint for Visa and if they don't get visa the money they spend on the ticket is wasted, I guess you are not going to refund that, are you? So, get off your self supremacy sofa and see the world from different perspective.
Anna January 10th, 2017 In case anyone is wondering, this is what I deal with on a weekly basis:

Dear The Chairman, I am Mr.**** ****,Assistant Professor at The University of Science and Technology of ORAN,ALGERIA.Because I want to attend"The International Conference Confoo 2017”,which will be held in Montreal,CANADA,during 08-10 March 2017.Because my country ALGERIA is an African and a Developing Country,and because,I have financial difficulties,I kindly request you to accept my participation and to give me your financial support (Fees,Accommodation,Meals and Travel Expenses).I send you The CV,The Recommendation Letter and The Passport Copy.Please send me The Invitation Letter in order to request The Visa. I wait your Reply URGENT.With the best regards.
Mr.**** ****.
Cleo September 5th, 2017 These invitation letters can be used as part of criminal operations...including human trafficking and finacial fraud that devastates the lives of people who's identity is stolen and accounts drained. Professional organizers need to be informed so they don't become an unsuspecting accomplice, and so their reputation and organization is not also damaged. Thanks for raising awareness!
Anna November 18th, 2017 Wow, I did not even consider that angle. Thanks!

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