Fruit pickers fall victim to employment scam

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Overseas backpackers have been duped by a fake online advertisement offering fruit picking work and accommodation in Narrogin.

Several travellers have contacted Consumer Protection and the Town of Narrogin after they attended a bogus address in the town that they thought was the office of an employment agent. They had responded to a Gumtree ad and paid about $200 each upfront. The scammer used the name of Harris Ballard, the surname being the same as the town’s mayor Leigh Ballard.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said it is common for scammers to target travellers who are trying to secure employment and accommodation upon their arrival in Australia.

“Travellers should be instantly suspicious when an employment agent asks for fees to be paid upfront to secure the job and accompanying accommodation,” Ms Driscoll said.

“There have been many cases where backpackers have been left out of pocket after handing over their money and giving their personal details, only to find out afterwards that the job doesn’t exist and they have become the victim of a scam.

“Job-seekers responding to advertisements should carry out research into any job offer and independently verify if the proposed place of employment is legitimate. Contacting the local Council or an industry association can confirm if the offer is genuine.”

In Western Australia, employment agents must be licensed and are not permitted to charge fees to prospective employees, only employers pay for services.

“For their own protection, job-seekers should always use licensed employment agents. If job-seekers are asked to pay fees to secure employment, they should refuse and report the agent or their website to Consumer Protection immediately,” the Commissioner said.

Consumers can check whether an employment agent is licensed by doing a search on the Consumer Protection website: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/CP/licencesearch 

Further information and advice on scams can be found on the WA ScamNet website www.scamnet.wa.gov.au. Enquiries or scam reports can be made by email wascamnet@commerce.wa.gov.au or by phone 1300 30 40 54.

END OF RELEASE

Media Contact (Consumer Protection)

Consumer Protection
Media release
21 Jan 2015

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