HALIFAX — An international student studying at a Halifax university said he lost $6,000 in a telephone scam involving accusations that he was a terrorist and would be arrested if he didn't comply with the caller's demands.
Mehran Durrani, who is from Pakistan, said he got a phone call from someone claiming to be from Immigration Canada on March 28. He said the caller knew his address and told him he was suspected of being involved in terrorist activity and got him to cross-check the caller ID online to confirm the caller's claim of authenticity.
"Violated — I felt really violated," Durrani said Monday.
During the conversation, he also got a call from a number he believed was from the Halifax Regional Police and was told he was going to be arrested within a couple of hours.
"He then made me merge the call with the immigration officer, and they kind of got into an argument. The immigration officer wanted more time. The cop was like, 'We don’t have time,'" said Durrani.
Durrani, who works two jobs, said he became increasingly worried when they told him he was being watched, leading him to transfer money for what was described as legal help from the United States.
He was promised that if his criminal background check came back clean, he would be refunded his money which totalled about $6,000.
Durrani said he felt pressured to do what the callers asked because he was concerned with completing his final semester of school and making sure nothing negatively impacted his career.
Const. Diane Penfound said police are investigating an alleged scam, but explained that these kinds of cases are difficult because it's hard to determine where the calls originate.
She said they received a similar report last July of a 19-year-old woman who got calls by someone claiming to be with Immigration Canada and also from the police. Penfound said the woman lost hundreds of dollars and the case is still under investigation.
"It's very difficult because the technology fraudsters have is quite sophisticated and they are usually overseas," she said.
One of Durrani's friends started a crowdfunding campaign that has raised about $5,450 so far.
"I’m so glad I'm in a country like Canada where people are so supportive," he said.
Durrani said he hopes that sharing his story will help prevent similar cases from happening to others.
The Canadian Press