OTTAWA — The Canadian government is “actively monitoring” fake websites that scam travellers into paying exorbitant fees — as much as 17 times the actual cost — for Electronic Travel Authorization, an online registration that’s soon to be mandatory for many foreign visitors to Canada.
At least 10 such websites exist “but there could be more,” said Nancy Chan, a spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. She said some scammers have charged up to 85 euros — about $121 — for a service that actually only costs $7.
The department has handled almost 500 complaints so far. Some of the complainants paid the unnecessary fees, believing they were dealing with the Canadian government, while others simply reported what they believed were suspicious websites.
“IRCC is very concerned that travellers are getting caught unaware. Not only may they be unknowingly paying unnecessary fees, but they are also providing personal information to these companies,” Chan said.
While there can be jurisdictional issues when sites are based outside Canada, she explained, the department is waging an “information campaign” through its diplomatic missions and is working with major search engines to keep sites from promoting themselves.
It’s also “reviewing” other possible actions, “particularly in the area of copyright infringement,” said Chan. But a Google query Friday found that one such site still appears on the first page of search results.
That website, canadaetavisa.com, borrows language from Canada’s immigration department but has a disclaimer at the bottom saying it is “a private website not affiliated with Government of Canada.” It includes an application form that asks for passport details, information on available funds for travel, employment history, a slew of other personal information and credit card details for a “$55 USD All inclusive Canadian Government’s and data processing fee.”