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How to avoid visa-related scams

Australia Post text messages are used for scam

Many work visa applicants are not aware of the process of obtaining work visas in Australia. And because scammers are taking advantage of this, it is important to protect yourself and know the typical red flags before throwing money into a dead-end opportunity.

Scammers lure people by promising them work and permanent residency in Australia. They try to steal money by asking people to pay money even before they can start work.

“Maraming nag-aalok ng job opportunites at sasabihin na ‘May trabaho sa Australia, ganito kalaki ang sweldo mo, pero magbabayad ka ng [malaking halaga kapalit ng trabaho],” BridgeAus Migration Consultancy CEO Johanna Nonato told SBS Filipino.

Know the requirements and the recruitment process

The first thing applicants can do to protect themselves is to be aware of the requirements for skilled migration and the hiring company’s recruitment process.

“Ang unang una kasi na [dapat i-consider] is ano ba talaga yung role, ano ba yung trabaho. Hindi pwedeng basta secretary o delivery boy. Kasi mayroon tayong Skilled Occupation List para sa 482 visa o tinatawag na Work Visa.”

“That’s the very first thing they need to ask.”

When you apply for a job, you start with your CV, tapos kung pasado ka, iinterviewhin ka. Kung ok na, bibigyan ka ng job offer.

Be wary of individuals or agencies offering job opportunities

Fake agents or recruiters will often reach out via email or social media. Before you deal with any individuals you've met online or if you're unsure of the legitimacy of the agency, take some time to do your own research. 

computer search
If unsure, do your own research.
Getty Images

Ms Nonato shares an incident she encountered with one of her clients, which she found ‘dodgy’.

“Yung isa kong kliyente dati, gusto niyang mag-aral dito. I was against her [decision] to study here. Kasi nga kakapanganak niya lang. Tapos parang wala naman talagang magiging pathway [to permanent residency].”

The client asked for her help to verify a job offer from an oil and gas company in Australia. In an email forwarded to her, she said the applicant was asked to send copies of her passport, visa approval PIN code number and to wire AUD$1,000 to a UK-based financial institution for them to finalise the processing of her work visa. 

“So nagtatanong siya bakit ganun? Sa Australia ako papasok, sa UK ako pinababayad,” she added.

Another individual who refused to be named told SBS Filipino she was offered a housekeeper job at a hotel chain in Australia. She and four other work visa applicants, including her partner were asked AUD $1700 each for payment of their visa processing—a total of AUD $8,500.

After eleven months of waiting, their 'promised' work visas did not arrive. And when she started to question the sham recruiter, she was told more lies and was asked to transfer more money. 

“Nakatanggap ako ng email na galing daw dun sa hotel, sinabihan ako na ok na daw yung visa ko pero kailangan ko bumili ng [airline] ticket at mag-send ng USD $650.”

Ms Nonato said this is common and sadly, many people still fall for this. 

Ang uso kasi sa Philippines, di ba ganun naman kasi ang lumalabas sa bansa, sinisingil. Sa work sponsorship [dito sa Australia], hindi ka sisingilin dahil gusto ka i-hire, ilegal yun.

Work visa applicants must also be aware of individuals posing as migration agents. They can search the migration agent’s name or license number and the license expiry date through the Office of Migration Agent’s Registration Authority website

“It doesn’t say though na kahit registered migration agent, hindi na manloloko. Yun yung pinakamahirap [i-assess]. Registered nga siya pero pwede ka pa din niyang lokohin,” Ms Nonato warned. 

Do not share your personal, banking or credit card information

scams
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There is a rapidly growing trend on Facebook groups, in which scammers post job opportunities or offer help for members with their work visa application.

Jun Licera, an admin of the Facebook group Filipinos in Queensland, has been very thorough in screening posts on his group page, but he admits it is difficult to monitor the page 24/7. 

“Marami na akong tinanggal na mga posts sa [Facebook page] ko, pero meron pa din talagang nakakalusot. Merong isang member na nag-post ng job opportunity at may ilang mga myembro ang nag-report sa akin na naloko nga sila.”

One of the victims, April Subiza, told SBS Filipino she responded to one of the members’ posts and accepted the ‘job’.

“Hiring daw po sila ng salesperson. Nagtanong po ako kung paano mag-apply. Nag-reply siya sa akin sa Messenger. Sabi niya, mag-popost lang ako ng mga puppies na ibebenta sa Gumtree.”

Ms Subiza had spent only a few weeks in Australia when she saw the post online. She said she did not know how the employment process works and was only after a decent job so she can fund her studies. 

She was asked to provide her bank details, which she thought will be used for setting up direct deposit to pay for her salary.  

“Pagkatapos [ko ibigay yung bank details ko,] sabi niya may magdedeposit sa account ko at kailangan kong i-transfer sa ibang tao yung pera. Five days later, may pumasok na apat pang iba’t-ibang [transactions] sa account ko,” Ms Subiza said.

Do your own research

According to Ms Nonato, it is encouraged to do your own research before applying for work visas or any kind of visas. It will not hurt to perform an ABN search or look up the company name on the internet. 

“Kung work visa ang inaaplyan nila, unang-una tanungin kung anong occupation. Pangalawa, i-check mo yung occupation kung nasa listahan ba ng 482. Pangatlo, [alamin mo] kung eligible ka ba dun sa occupation na yun,” she said. 

Halimbawa, hina-hire ka na plumber pero nursing graduate ka. Dapat kapag ganun, kinekwestyon mo na kaagad.

“[Alamin] mo rin kung ano yung kumpanya, sino ba talaga yung mag-sponsor sa iyo, at kung saan ka magtatarabaho.”

If you think the offer is dodgy and it might be a scam, report them to the authorities.  

Disclaimer: This article is for general information only. For specific visa advice, people are urged to check with the Department of Home Affairs or contact a trustworthy registered migration agent in Australia.

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