Backpackers stung by job scam in South West
Overseas backpackers have been stung by an employment scam, losing money by responding to a fake online advertisement for jobs and accommodation in Collie.
The victims have been contacting the Collie Visitors Centre and the Shire of Collie after arriving in the town expecting to start work at an orchard. They responded to a Gumtree advertisement looking for apple pickers at “Bluestone Fruits” – an orchard that doesn’t exist. The address given is vacant land in Collie.
The backpackers are believed to have paid $200 each by direct bank transfer to the scammer calling himself “Oscar Pankhurst”, the farm manager.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said this scam targets people on a tight budget who can least afford to lose money.
“Apart from the initial money paid, backpackers would also have had to pay for transport and alternative accommodation after discovering they had been scammed,” Mr Hillyard said.
“This is a devastating experience for overseas travellers coming to Australia and impacts our reputation.
“Our advice to people responding to online job ads is to do some thorough checking with local authorities to ensure the farm being advertised actually exists and the job offer is genuine.
“Contact the farm directly to confirm, but don’t use the email addresses or phone numbers given by the scammers, as these can easily be re-routed overseas. An internet search of mobile phone numbers used in these scams may reveal them listed in blog threads by other victims.”
“Backpackers seeking fruit picking jobs in regional WA are easy targets for scammers and can risk their identity being stolen by giving out personal information and, in some cases, providing a scan of their passport.”
Before responding to a job advertisement, carry out independent research including:
- An online search of mobile phone numbers, addresses and any company or business names used.
- A venue check, such as a call to a farm or winery. This may be enough to confirm that they are not hiring via an employment agent or Gumtree.
- Checking with a local Council or industry association because legitimate accommodation providers and employers will be registered.
“Apply a healthy amount of suspicion when responding to online job advertisements, especially on Gumtree. Guard personal information including your date of birth, employment history and any documentation that could be used to steal your identity,” the Acting Commissioner said.
Consumer Protection urges job seekers to only use licensed employment agents whose details can be found on the Consumer Protection website www.commerce.wa.gov.au/cp via the licence search function. Employment agents are not permitted to charge fees to prospective employees. They can only charge the employer for their services.
Job scams or unlicensed employment agents should be reported to Consumer Protection by email email@example.com or by phone 1300 30 40 54. More information on job scams is available at www.scamnet.wa.gov.au.
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