Scam sinks job seeker’s hopes

2012-02-04 00:00

HIS dreams of a job on a cruise ship hit the rocks like the Costa Concordia, and sank.

Alistair Cook (19) of Howick was devastated when he found out his offer of employment on the Oceania was an elaborate scam.

Cook thought he had hit the jackpot. He was offered a job aboard a plush ocean cruise liner — and it was handsomely paid.

But his dreams were dashed after a few days when he came to realise he was a pawn in an elaborate Internet scam designed to con money out of him.

Cook had been scouring the Internet for overseas jobs when his aunt forwarded him a list of jobs from a recruitment agency based in Australia.

He was going to Australia at the end of February for a gap year to join his brother Jack, who was already studying there, and needed to get a job to earn money while he planned to travel.

The e-mail offered jobs on a reputable ocean liner in Australia and he hurriedly applied. The job that most appealed to him was customer relations officer.

“I e-mailed the address and a woman responded, saying that although they had many applications they liked mine and would track it,” said Cook.

“In a few days’ time she contacted me again, saying they would send me a contract to sign as they would like to offer me the job of a customer relations officer. The salary was A$4 200 a month (about R34 395).”

His mother, Emily Cook, checked the ship company’s website and the details looked authentic. The ship did tours in the Pacific and recruited abroad for staff .

She said: “At no stage did we feel that it was a con. I was slightly amazed at the generous salary, but thought it was probably because of the long hours and working through weekends.”

Cook signed the contract and sent off his documentation and within 48 hours received an e-mail to confirm his employment and to assure him that his airfare would be paid for by the cruise line.

This was a small complication for Cook, who had already booked his airline ticket to Perth.

His mother decided to cancel the plane ticket on the basis of the e-mail. Within 24 hours they received another e-mail from the “employers” stating that in order for him to be employed he would have to pay two different amounts totalling US$600 (R4 900) for two certificates ensuring he would be seaworthy.

This time the e-mail was written in very bad English and the sender requested that the money be deposited in a bank account in Guinea. Suddenly the penny dropped.

They realised the whole job set-up had been an elaborate scam.

“I was really shocked!” he said, “I guess I was too hopeful. When you send out so many applications you get kind of desperate.”

But the real loser is his mother, who had to re-book his flight to Perth and lost a huge amount in the process as SAA has a strict cancellation policy.

The Oceania has responded to an e-mail that Cook sent about the scam.

Human resources director Tim Sheppard said: “Our legal department has sent cease and desist letters to the domain name registrant and the attorney-general.

“But these scams pop up frequently and are difficult to stop. We suggest that you contact the police in your own state/country and report your own experiences in the hope an international file can be created.

“We have also informed the FBI and we suspect the scam originates in South Africa as most of the people who are conned are from South Africa,” the e-mail said.

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Cruise director wrote the book on avoiding scams

SINFONIA cruise director Stephen Cloete has written a book, Scam’d, warning people of current Internet scams and he is aware of the cruise ship con.

He said: “This is classic advance fee fraud, whereby you are asked to pay money up front to receive a greater reward, whether it is a job offer, like in Alistair’s case, or advising you that you have won the lottery. There are always many clues to these scams, but people tend to overlook them since they are desperate for the end result. This is what partly drove me to write a comprehensive book on scams because if you have an understanding of how these scams work, it affords you protection.

“Since I work within the cruise ship industry I have had many similar stories coming to my attention. The best advice that I can give is to recommend that unsolicited e-mail offers of any kind should be avoided. All reputable cruise companies use more traditional methods of recruitment ... and I very much doubt an offer of employment would be made without an interview.”

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