Overseas visitors on working holidays are being subjected to online scams making fake offers of fruit-picking jobs and accommodation.
A Swedish couple was visiting Sydney when they saw an enticing job online for fruit picking in the southern Queensland city of Toowoomba.
The job ad promised $20 an hour for 10 hours a day, six days a week.
The couple rented a camper van, paid $400 for two weeks accommodation in advance and headed off north.
“When we got up to Toowoomba and knocked on the house … they did not know what we talked about (sic),” the couple said in an email.
“So we tried calling the person we got a job off.”
The voicemail box was full, so they could not leave a message.
When the couple sent through a follow-up email, a message returned saying the email address had been deleted.
“We have been victims of fraud, lost a lot of money for the rent of camping van, petrol, accommodation.”
Such incidents are not uncommon and there are growing calls for action.
The con artists are as swift and agile as ninjas.
They set up email and bank accounts and a fake company identity and start collecting money via legitimate buying and selling websites, such as the hugely popular Gumtree.
Once they’re satisfied with the take, they move on to another scam.
“Strawberry” Sue Mazi runs a horticulture recruitment business near Caboolture, just north of Brisbane.
“There’s been a lot of scams in the last three months,” she told AAP.
“These people sound like bona-fide farmers and some set up websites as well, sometimes using the name of legitimate operations.”
Gumtree spokesperson Niki Hennessy told AAP the company was aware of scammers occasionally targeting job seekers on the website.
“The number one safety tip for job seekers is to find out as much information as possible about a company before interviewing for and accepting a role,” she said.
Gumtree recommends using independent resources like ABN Lookup, which allows job seekers to search for public information about a company by ABN or company name.
Job seekers should also meet prospective employers face-to-face, ideally at the business.
If scams are suspected they should be immediately reported using the “Report Ad” function on the website.