June 7, 2021

You May Have Used a Digital Ghost Representative (DGR) Without Even Knowing

Posted by Mario Bellissimo - Bellissimo Law Group PC

A growing emerging issue is the opportunity Artificial Intelligence (AI) may unintentionally provide for unscrupulous fraudsters to game the process or offer tools for a generation of what I refer to as “digital ghost representatives” (DGRs).  DGRs refers to unauthorized representatives that will exploit the benefits of AI technology and the wider dissemination of digital immigration to ghost immigration applications and immigration pleadings under the guise of self-represented applicants that do not know better, for personal financial gain. 

Ghost representation is already an enormous problem but as more data becomes available online in terms of case trends, better self-help chat boxes, or simply as a result of collating data of online memorandums of law or legal submissions, it increases the opportunities for individuals to ghost even on an application for leave at Federal Court.  These DGRs can be less traceable than even current ghosts shielded behind a world of technological deception. 

How will applicants be treated in law when victimized by these profiteers? Although foreign nationals can be subject to a misrepresentation finding pursuant to section 40 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) for failing to disclose a representative on the application, how will the law deal with DGRs?  The implications are far ranging.

What are some of the tell-tale signs of a DGR?

  • Their name will not appear anywhere on your application.
  • Any financial receipts provided will not make any mention of immigration related services.
  • They have glossy websites and applications that are enticing.
  • They usually provide immigration services to many countries not just Canada.
  • The services offered are broad – recruitment, settlement and document preparation – one stop profiteering.

Does any of this sound familiar?

You may have been unlawfully represented by a DGR without even knowing.

Plug and Play will Keep the Authorized and Legitimate Representatives Away

Each passing day Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and other stakeholders seemingly transition to plug and play self-help systems where higher walls are appearing, separating applicants from a lawyer willing to assist.  This fuel’s a perception of a system dehumanizing the process.  The learned behaviour over time is that all solutions are a mouse click away. 

Filling in any informational gaps, any questions you may have is your friendly cyber-neighbor DGR. Think about if for a moment – a foreign national can apply, be represented, be refused, be represented, and seek leave at the Federal Court and not interact with one person face to face.  Some of this of course is not new.

What is new, is the pace at which this is changing and being further entrenched in all facets of our society. How lawyers represent and advocate for their immigration clients is at the precipice of a major evolution that will accelerate in the coming years.

The technocentric application of laws through the use of AI or digitalization generally will impact every corner of the law. How it is delivered, how it is presented and how it will be applied. Again, apprehensions about gaming the system are nothing new; what is new is the novel opportunities this may offer fraudsters. This cannot be lost to the process or we will unwittingly empower DGRs to exploit vulnerable applicants in and outside Canada.   

Serious Consequences

Ultimately a fundamental challenge remains that until we are all on a relatable informational plane, immigration lawyers, applicants and the public are at a disadvantage in understanding how parts of their lives may be reordered.  We as immigration advocates always seek to infuse life and humanity into what can sometimes feel like an increasingly technical and sterile compilation of rules, regulations, and website updates.  

DGRs will do the opposite.

The seduction of quick, affordable and easy applications with universal templates far removed from an applicant’s individualized circumstances will be strong for many unknowing applicants.  Although AI and rapidly expanding technology is breaking new ground each day, with the past appearing less relevant to the present and especially the future, some golden rules are timeless.

If it is too good to be true, it usually is. Even if it is packaged into a shiny new application, neat looking techno solutionism, it still is what it is. 

Unscrupulous ghosts looking for quick hit profits. Victims however will be in full view of the law, that can still be unforgiving even when the fall prey to slick opportunists dressed up in all new ways. In many cases immigration aspirations shattered, their data sold and applicants left to pick up the pieces. 

As for the DGR.  Here today, gone tomorrow and rebranded the next day. 

Thank you for reading, and stay well.