Cybercriminal scams Newcastle teenager out of savings, dashing her dreams of going abroad

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Chloe Bezuidenhout’s dreams of travelling overseas to become an Au Pair has been dashed. Along with her dreams, the 19-year-old’s savings have been stolen by an unscrupulous con artist.

Yolanda Bezuidenhout, Chloe’s mother, explains that after matriculating, Chloe decided to Au Pair for a year before studying further.

“In December, we started looking for an Au Pair job for Chloe, going onto Au Pair Jobs South Africa on Facebook.”

On the page, a woman claiming to be from England contacted Chloe, promising her a position in London. Eager about a potential job, Chloe and Yolanda started the relevant steps to secure Chloe the Au Pair position.

“I checked the woman’s Facebook page and everything, including the whole process, was so legitimate. The woman went as far as to get the necessary forms and lawyer’s letters for Chloe.”

Talking to the woman via email, Whatsapp and even telephonically, Chloe and Yolanda found themselves the unwilling victim of an elaborate scam.

It is only upon opening a MoneyGram account for Chloe, that things truly turned sour.

“I asked more than one local bank if the money could be taken out of the account if I opened it in Chloe’s name. They all assured me that the only way it could be withdrawn, was if Chloe presented her passport,” Yolanda says.

However, hours after Yolanda depositing over R10 000 into the account, it was all withdrawn. The moment Yolanda questioned the woman regarding the money being withdrawn, she blocked both Chloe and Yolanda.

While MoneyGram International Inc is investigating the matter, Chloe is now reeling from the incident. The money she had painstakingly saved, snatched away in an instant.

“The money was withdrawn in London and all the relevant documents come from there as well, the woman also had the right type of accent. So, the individual is based there,” Yolanda explains,

Taking to social media, Yolanda quickly warned others about the scam artist, quickly discovering that she and Chloe were not the only victims. A number of people spoke up about how they were nearly scammed by the same individual, while others had also already fallen victim

As Yolanda and Chloe now deal with consequences of being scammed, Nadine van Wyngaardt, the KZN franchise owner of Carla’s Au Pairs, warns potential Au Pairs about accepting au pair jobs in the UK.

“South Africans don’t qualify for the UK au pair visa, which is why we don’t offer it as a program,” she says.

When searching for an Au Pair position, Nadine says one needs to ask a series of questions to safeguard yourself from con artists. Two of the questions a potential au pair candidate must ask; is as follows:

How do I know this is not a scam?

Nadine explains one has the right to be concerned about scams, as it is a reality.

“Please feel free to go to our Facebook page and read our reviews. Talk to other Au Pairs who went abroad with our agency and ask them how their experience is. We are a registered tax-paying company with a registration number indicated on our invoices,” Nadine explains.

Furthermore, it is instrumental to do your homework about other agencies, as well to make sure you choose the best possible option for you.

“We are here if you have more questions or concerns,” emphasises Nadine. 

I received an email from a family that wants to match with me. They want me to pay them directly for the visa costs. How do I proceed?

This is a big NO-NO! Au Pairs will never be asked to pay any fees directly to a family or directly to the overseas agency.

Carla’s Au Pairs states if this happens, it is a scammer who got hold of the Au Pair’s email address and is pretending to be a family or an international partner agency.

“This does not happen often, but it has happened in the past. We live in the age of technology and criminals are bound to abuse the system if they get a way to do it. Please always be aware of scammers and come to us if you feel something is not right or feels funny,” Nadine emphasises.

Potential Au Pairs can also lookout for the warning signs of a scam:
  • The Au Pair will never be required to pay fees or monies directly to a family or an agency other than Carla’s Au Pairs.
  • The overseas agency will never contact the Au Pair directly. It will always be through Carla’s Au Pairs.
  • A match is only confirmed once the overseas agency confirms it with Carla’s Au Pairs. Only Carla’s Au Pairs will confirm a match with an Au Pair directly.

Newcastle SAPS spokesperson, Captain Jabulani Ncube says job seekers must be careful of any company for an advance payment of any sort when applying for a job (money for flights, registration fees and so forth).

“Do not send them any payment. Never give out your bank details and do not provide them with any further personal information,” he emphasises.

Encouraging people to always remain vigilant, Nadine says her heart goes out to Chloe.

“It is so sad to see how many young women get scammed. It completely puts them off the program, when in fact it is an amazing opportunity.”

Nadine explains that she was an au pair from 2015 to 2017, working through Carla’s Au Pairs.

“It was a life-changing experience for me. All our offices are owned by ex-Au Pairs, which is why we all have such a passion for the program and to help as many young women as possible to be able to experience what we did.”

Nadine explains the main purpose of the au pair program is cultural exchange.

“It is a safe and affordable way to travel and see the world. The Au Pair program in the countries that we offer is regulated by their governments. We work with only the best partner agencies abroad who screen host families first before placing Au Pairs with them. Au Pairs also get screened. Candidates who go through the right channels to go abroad as an Au Pair will have a life-changing experience,” she explains.

As scam artists prowl for potential victims, job hunters are reminded to always research the potential company they intend to work for.

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