TTP Report: Facebook and WhatsApp Spreading Visa Scam to Migrants


Contact: Michael Clauw,, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report revealing that Facebook and WhatsApp are allowing a fake Canadian visa program to target migrant groups on their platforms. Posts from Facebook accounts claiming to belong to immigration lawyers offer free travel, employment services, legal services, and housing in Canada. But they drive migrants to websites that simply harvest their personal data—and prompt them to spread the scam to their friends and relatives. Despite warnings from both fact checkers and the Canadian government, Meta has failed to take action on the posts.

Read the report.

Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “This is a clear-cut example of a scam, but Meta is inexplicably failing to do anything about it. If TTP can easily find these scam posts, Meta should be able to as well. Instead, vulnerable migrants are left susceptible to fraud, identity theft, or worse.”

TTP identified dozens of near-identical Facebook and WhatsApp posts advertising the fake visa program in groups for migrants from Central America, South America, and Africa. The posts state that Canada is recruiting over 450,000 migrant workers and promise financed travel, free housing, immediate work permits, and legal assistance from the Canadian government for all migrants over the age of 16. When users click on the posts, they are brought to third-party websites that collect their name, email, marital status, age, and occupation. The sites require users to invite at least 15 friends via WhatsApp before accessing the promised visa information, which is never produced. This scheme turns migrants into unwitting spreaders of the scam.

TTP’s investigation shows that Google also plays a role in propping up this scam. Some of the fake visa websites use Google’s analytics and advertising tools, allowing them to collect more data about people who visit the sites and make money off of those page views. Google allows this even after blocking phishing sites run by the same individuals behind the visa scam.

Some early versions of the scam post used the link shortening service TinyUrl to direct users to the fake visa application website. By Feb. 25, TinyUrl had terminated the link, citing its policy barring the use of its service for spam, fraud, or moneymaking scams. But Meta and Google, much larger companies, are still allowing the fake visa program to spread.

Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “This is not a scam that is simply aided by these platforms—it is born on their services, and tailor-made to use their features to maximum effect to exploit users. Meta and Google are fully to blame—still, they have been failing to act.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.