Immigrants 'targeted by Home Office fraudsters'

Pratik Vyas
Image caption Pratik Vyas says his wife got the call from people claiming to be from the immigration department

Immigrants are being targeted by extortionists, who pressure them into handing over thousands of pounds, an Inside Out London investigation found.

The programme has spoken to dozens of people who say they were deceived into revealing their personal details and handing over cash.

The victims said they received calls from men who claimed to be from the UK Visa and Immigration department.

The Home Office said it had seen no evidence to support these allegations.

PhD student Pratik Vyas says he lost all of his savings after his wife received a phone call from a man posing as an immigration officer.

"They said that she hadn't filled the correct forms that she was supposed to fill at the airport, when we first arrived.

"They demanded she transfer all the money in her bank account to another account or face being deported."

'Completely finished'

He told the programme that what happened had left his wife traumatised.

Ritu, 35, who came to the UK from Pakistan, says she was conned out of £56,000 after being put in contact with two men who promised to help her obtain settlement visas.

"That money was from my savings and I borrowed a huge sum from close friends and my parents back home," she said.

Image caption Ritu said she was "devastated" by what had happened

"Now it is all gone and I could be deported at any moment. I am devastated, completely finished."

The programme has also heard allegations that some of the fraud is actually being instigated by personnel from within the Home Office itself.

An immigration officer told the production team that fraud involving immigration staff was an increasing problem for the government.

"There have been many complaints of corruption over the last year and there is a sense that this is connected to some outsourced work and freelance staff.

"I know that internally, at this time, the Home Office are investigating at least two cases of fraud by immigration officials."

'Anecdotal evidence'

Ritu believes that the men who defrauded her were Home Office employees.

"They showed me their ID and they referred to the Home Office as their place of work every time that they called me on my number.

"I also met them outside the Home Office. So I have good reason to believe that they really are immigration officers."

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, a registered charity, told the programme it had heard "some anecdotal evidence of Home Office fraud, including one example of money changing hands in branches of McDonald's with promises from a Home Office employee that this would result in a grant of leave."

A spokesman for the Home Office said: "The Home Office has not been passed any evidence to substantiate the allegations of staff corruption.

"Any allegations of fraud or wrongdoing carried out by Home Office staff should be passed on to the Home Office's Investigations team.

"We expect the highest levels of integrity from our staff and all allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated."

Some names have been changed.

Watch the full report on Inside Out London at 19:30 GMT on 7th March on BBC One London and nationwide on the iPlayer for 28 days thereafter.

Additional reporting by Oana Marocico.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites