Updated: Jul 13
Scammer stories about unregistered migration agents, overpriced and erroneous CV packages, imaginary sponsored jobs, fake visas and airline tickets for flights that don’t exist…
These are only some of the scams faced by South Africans wanting to secure a better life for themselves and their children overseas.
Some of the lies told by unscrupulous dealers are huge, some don’t seem as serious, but it all ends with the client paying for services that are unnecessary or simply don’t exist. “It’s hard enough to immigrate, it’s so expensive and so difficult, we don’t need the extra lies and payments. I can’t afford to lose money” says Gloria Klu, who was the victim of a con artist.
Ms Klu had her CV written by a South African writer, who also promised to market the CV and secure a position for her.
“I paid R3000 for her to write my CV and market it to employers. There was no proof of job applications and the CV was a mess. Luckily another CV writer stepped in to help me, otherwise I don’t know what I would have done.”
Administrators of some of the largest Facebook groups for South Africans immigrating to foreign countries have started warning members about accepting private messages and friend requests from people making promises that seem too good to be true.
“We have noticed an increase in people being scammed, the stories are heart-breaking but once people have paid for a service, there’s not much we can do to help them.”
Heather Myburgh manages the largest group on Facebook for South Africans moving to Canada and the USA and says her admin team is constantly warning people to beware of scammers.
“If something sounds too good to be true, it is! Nobody can promise you a job within a certain time, but people are desperate and they want to believe. So many members have lost money and we try to warn everyone, but often we only hear about the scam after the money is gone.”
Her message is very clear: “Don’t accept offers sent via private message!”
“Scammers will join a large, established group and then message all the members. They may not join as their regular account but rather use an alias to join the group, to gain access to the member list,” Mrs Myburgh explains.
The most popular scam on her group (South Africans wanting to Live and Work in Canada and USA) is offers of sponsored jobs.
“Members get messaged with promises of sponsored jobs or cheaper visas all the time, it’s terrible. We try to keep members safe and encourage everyone to report anyone messaging them in private. It’s underhand and unscrupulous and it has to stop.”
Mary-Jane Gouws is another victim of a CV and sponsorship scam.
“We paid R2800 for my husband’s resume rewrite, LinkedIn profile and marketing for three months. A total of 12 emails were sent to “market” him and he was promised a fully sponsored job in Canada. We were afterwards approached by a recruiter who advised that my husband’s resume was very poorly written.
“I went through it and noticed all the mistakes and grammar mistakes, the alignment everything was horrendous. There was nothing done on the LinkedIn profile.”
Sadly, there is nothing the victim can do once the scammer blocks them.
These unqualified and unscrupulous dealers are active all over Facebook, targeting any groups that attract South Africans wanting to relocate to foreign shores.
Megan Paine, one of the owners of the Facebook group SA2Eire, says her admin team has seen it all and heard every scammer story in the book.
“Ireland has a policy of UP TO 90 days holiday for South African passport holders. This is based on proof you bring with you when you land in Ireland and you are granted entry based on that. This is NOT for seeking or taking up work.
However, we have seen many cases over the years of people who have either voluntarily come over and sought work, or were conned into coming over and working cash in hand, under minimum wage for unscrupulous employers and then kicked to the curb at ninety days because then they are no longer legal. Well, they weren’t legal to work in the first place!”
Most Scammer Stories involving labour exploitation involve non public-facing employment roles.
Ms Paine explains that most of these jobs are in the kind of work that’s not visible, such as chefs, kitchen porters and cleaners, and often they are people who are easily convinced or possibly gullible to the promises of others. “The dream of a better life has lead them to use their life savings to do something that simply cannot be done long term and the money is wasted.”
It doesn’t end there…
“People also set up Facebook and WhatsApp groups to teach people how to use and abuse the asylum process of coming to Ireland and the UK by travelling into the UK via the Northern Ireland border, how to buy fake South African passports and come to Ireland. They teach people what to say and how to do it.”
The scams don’t stop once South Africans have left home, Ms Paine continues.
“The housing crisis in Ireland has led to many scams and fed through Facebook marketplace or some dubious property websites where verification is not tight, so people have been scammed out of thousands of EUROS.
We implore people to do their homework. Whether that is to Ireland, UK, Canada, USA, NZ or wherever the wind takes us South Africans. Too many times we have people throw in the towel and return to SA and blame the country they were in. It is very often bad planning and bad research as to what the destination is like. If it’s a tropical island you’re after, Ireland is not that.”
Proper planning is the key.
“And making sure you know the conditions of work permits and what the terms and conditions are on your family members is vital!”
The experts agree the only way for immigrants to protect themselves is to take the time to do the research.
According to Katrin Maja O’Flynn, Director of Intergate Emigration, it’s simple to know whether you are dealing with a licensed adviser when moving to Australia or new Zealand.
“The way people can avoid scammers is that they can check the registries in Australia and New Zealand, to see if they are dealing with licensed advisers.”
If they are not on the list, avoid them.
Diane Theron from New Routes Canada agrees, reiterating there are no short cuts.
“Canada is one of the most popular destinations for immigrants, we have an express entry pool with some two hundred thousand applicants hoping to be selected. Immigration scams are possibly one of the biggest fraud operations that Canada is struggling with and sadly not only through seedy, creepy middle of a dark passage environments.
The ugly reality of people being victimised by unscrupulous actors, is the reason for the existence of the College of Immigration & Citizenship Consultants (CICC). There are also further checks-and-balances in place, such as the Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCIC) register, to protect the consumer.
Before hiring a consultant, the first due diligence is to check the consultants standing on the CICC website”, Ms Theron advises.
“You can easily see by their name or company name if they have been suspended, disciplined or are in good standing. However, even this is not fool proof as scammers have also been known to clone websites and even profiles on the RCIC itself. These are certainly shark-infested waters in which we swim.”
The worst of the scammer stories which came to Ms Theron’s mind was from a client who emigrated to Canada under a business category.
“An expensive route to follow as it is, at around C$50,000, the gentleman had paid for the business part of the application and was awaiting news from his lawyer on when it was to be submitted. He was calling me to get advice on how to include his family in the process.
As we were chatting, I googled the lawyer in question. It was immediately clear they had been arrested several months prior and charged with defrauding millions of dollars. My client was blissfully unaware that the fees he had paid had certainly not gone towards the cost of his application. Instead, the money had gone towards payment for a new pool installation at the lawyer’s beautiful home.”
The scammer stories go on and on, so what’s the best way to protect yourself?
Buyer beware! That’s the message from all the reputable professionals.
Check their standing with the registered body in that country
Google is your friend. Check reviews, check news reports, join large Facebook groups for your chosen area and listen to the advice of experts.
And remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.