London’s new digital navigator for newcomers ‘so angry’ by scam that caught refugee family

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The Londoner running new workshops aimed at helping newcomers increase their digital knowledge is frustrated to learn an Afghani family fell victim to online fraudsters. 

Last week, CBC published a story about Saifora Ibrahim Paktiss, who lost $7,000 after someone pretending to be a border agent tricked her into sending money. Her family had arrived from Kabul in December.    

“I was so angry that this happened to her. I want people to know that there are services in place and we’re here to help,” he said. “It’s honestly so disheartening and I understand why she felt deceived and alone,” said Odai Obaid, who came to Canada from Syria in 2018.  

Obaid was recently hired to teach a digital navigation program to newcomers to help them identify if and when someone is trying to scam them through phone calls, text messages, or emails.

“It’s introducing newcomers to the digital world. We know that in daily life dealing with emails or online purchases needs to be done cautiously, but in other countries people use hard copies and deal with cash,” he said.

“They don’t always use credit cards, emails and personal information like we do here, so it’s important for people to be aware, and we encourage all newcomers to learn this information.”

The program launched in November and is funded by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada. It’s offered at the YMCA, in both London and Windsor, with material translated into English, Arabic, Spanish, and Mandarin.

When I first come here, how would I know that it’s not really the government of Canada calling me? People aren’t aware of these things.”– Odai Obaid

‘We’re here to help’

As a former newcomer himself, Obaid knows how vulnerable newcomers can be to scams, which is what fraudsters often use to their advantage.

“When I first come here, how would I know that it’s not really the government of Canada calling me? People aren’t aware of these things and it’s not because they’re naive, it’s because here we deal with things differently than other countries. So when someone tells them they’re a government agent and asks for their social insurance number or banking information, they think it’s okay to share that,” he said. 

Obaid’s program teaches people about different types of scams and what to look out for, along with how to protect children from cyber predators, and where to report these incidents.

So far in 2022, there have been 14,200 reports of fraud to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre. More than 3,100 people have fallen victim to scams, totalling about $18 million in lost money, the agency said. 

What to look out for 

“Scammers are getting more creative and $7,000 is not a small number. For a newcomer that’s a life changing number and it’s a lot of money for them,” Obaid said, referring to Paktiss. For her, it left the family without funds to pay rent. 

Obaid had these high level tips to share with newcomers: 

  • If they receive an email, look at where it came from by clicking on the name of the sender. Does it look legitimate?
  • Check for spelling errors, or numbers and spaces in an email address that may look different.
  • Nobody will give you anything for free whether it’s a gift or money, that’s important to be aware of. 
  • Handling money can be done through a bank and banking advisors, so you should check with them first if you have any doubts. 

Obaid encourages newcomers interested in the program to call the YMCA learning centre and book an appointment with him.

London Morning8:24London newcomer warns others of phone scams

After being taken for thousands of dollars in a phone scam, London newcomer Saifora Ibrahim Paktiss warns other newcomers about phone fraudsters. CBC London’s Kate Dubinski tells her story. 8:24

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