The increase in fake websites on the net perhaps sums up everything that is wrong with the internet. While the net offers every day convenience, for millions of innocent users, it is becoming harder every day to tell what’s fake and what’s real.
It’s a lesson that former Port Elizabeth resident, Michelle Linger, will not forget after her hopes of working on a cruise ship in Australia were dashed after she responded to an online job offer supposedly from the Princess Cruise Line Australia.
Michelle says she received a link with the job advert from a friend.
“I responded to the advert online, but didn’t hear anything for a while – so assumed that I hadn’t been successful.
“Sometime later, I received a working contract from them, which I needed to sign and return to them as my application had been accepted,” she describes.
“I signed the contract and emailed it back to them.
“They acknowledged the signed contract and said that they were awaiting approval from the Sydney Immigration Visa Office.”
Michelle says this office then contacted her to confirm that the Princess Cruise Liner had sent them her visa/working documents and the AU Visa 187 application.
She says before being notified whether her Visa application had been approved or not, she was told that she had to obtain an Australian Foreign Intelligence Certificate (AFIC), for which she would have to pay R4 000 so that she can be allowed to work in the maritime industry in Australia.
Unsuspecting, Michelle complied and wired the R4 000. She was then contacted by someone claiming to be from Australian Immigration and Border Control.
She was told that her travel documents had been processed, but in order for her to obtain a residence Visa, she was required to pay an additional R10 000 – she wired the money.
“I contacted them asking if there would be any further costs incurred as this was getting to be rather expensive and they assured me that I was done with paying fees.
“They also sent me a questionnaire with regards to next of kin and exact address as they stated this would be for their files and also the courier needed the contact details to get my documentation to me,” said Michelle.
But then on the 5th of April, she was emailed by someone claiming to be from the Sydney Immigration Office.
Michelle says she was told that the courier agent had advised them that the Director General of Sydney International Airport Immigration wanted a fee of R20 000 that she would use for what they called ‘living expenses’ when she would come to Australia.
She was assured that the amount would be reimbursed to her upon arrival in Australia.
“I began to feel extremely uncomfortable as this was so much more money and I had been assured that no more costs would be incurred.
“The following morning another friend advised me that she had discovered a scam alert on the internet involving this very thing, so I didn’t send the money,” describes Michelle.
“They kept contacting me for payment and then advised me that the travel documents would be cancelled if they didn’t receive the last payment.
“I have lost R14 000, but at least, the scam was uncovered and I can use this experience to help somebody else.”
Nowadays, it is advised to do due diligence on anything offered online – including jobs and services, as many people have lost thousands of Rands to cybercriminals. Usually, internet users are advised that when it’s too good to be true – it probably is.
Michelle made sure to contact Blue Ensign, the official recruitment partner ofthe Princess Cruise Line Australia, and they now have a warning on their website about online scams that are using their brand name.
“We have recently been made aware of fraudulent entities around the world claiming to represent Princess Cruises as recruitment partners,” the warning reads.
“We are working closely with our Security department and local police authorities in various countries to prevent individuals from wrongly representing themselves as Princess Recruitment partners.
“If you have any suspicion about the nature of an ad or website claiming to recruit on behalf of Princess Cruises, please contact the approved Princess agency located nearest your place of residence.”