Canadians. We are internationally known for our kind-hearted nature and over-the-top politeness. Sometimes, though, we become known for our gullibility.
About a year ago, CBC Toronto spoke about a website that was fooling Canadians into sharing personal info, credit cards and passport information, all because the users believed it was a federal website.
Canadians were duped then, and it's still happening!
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They call it application services, meant to help Canadians fill out a form that is available, for free, from the government.
It is, essentially, a person sitting down with you and explaining the very same instructions that are right before your eyes on the application forms. It is the top Google search result when you look up a variety of search phrases, most popularly "renew Canadian passport online."
Since the story was first published over a year ago, over a dozen people have come forth and contacted new outlets telling similar stories of the websites trickery.
Giving personal details to a private company, sending their passports to a non-government agency, identity theft, cost of their service and fighting for the refunds owed are some of the tales to come out from these "clients."
The website in question, Passport Online, is designed to resemble that of a federal website and can trick an unobservant eye into thinking they're legit.
They ask you a few standard questions, such as "are you a Canadian citizen?", before giving you congratulations notice that there are indeed reps to help you in your area. After you provide an email and phone number, you are immediately redirected to a Credit/Debit payment page to pay for their "service."
The scam website looks like this:
A former employee of Passport Online is blowing the whistle on their shady practices, admitting having preyed on Canadians who overpay for the service.
They share warnings about Passport Online and Pardons and Waivers of Canada - which has the same owner.
The employees of the business, that operates out of Toronto, fill out applications for passports of criminal pardons and charge hundreds and thousands per application to do so.
The former employee does not want to be identified but said to CBC that "they locked all employees inside and would not let us leave even for a bathroom break for fear we would talk".
The companies are owned by Jesse Breslin. This is, apparently, their office, but in reality it is a Korean-language TV station.
CBC News went to the Toronto offices of the two companies, both owned by Jesse Breslin and to avoid CBC finding out any information, the owner's sister, Stephanie Breslin advised employees they were not to leave their workstations and locked the office doors.
Michael Kennedy is the man listed by Industry Canada as the representative of the administrative service for Pardons and Waivers, at the same Toronto business address.
The former employee says that he is made up and does not exist! This is something I've been seeing a lot of these days. Blogs tend to do this, too. Use fake profiles and accounts to widen their reach and to fake engagement to seem more legitimate.
They also alleged being trained to "lie, manipulate and 'qualify' people as to how much money they make" and services provided were priced to match these profiles.
The moral of the story here? Avoid "AD" search listings. Do your research. Pick up a phone, or go to an official government office.
Never pay for something online, unless you are certain of what you're paying for.
For good measure, here is the proper link for Canadian passport renewals.