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Con artists strike it rich in Hong Kong with job fraud and ID theft totalling HK$7.82 million in 2018, or seven times more than all of 2017

Desperate jobseekers persuaded to hand over personal details and bank information in fake employment scammers

Hong Kong’s con artists have scammed ­job seekers out of seven times more cash in the first four months of 2018 than they did in the entire year of 2017, police revealed on Monday.

Identity theft and fake job offers drove the rise, with the latest police figures showing 78 Hongkongers losing HK$7.82 million (US$996,000) in 48 reported scams.

That is compared to the HK$1.13 million that 43 vunerable victims lost last year to con artists in 33 cases, covering a variety of scams. Of the HK$7.82 million, HK$7.1 million was lost in loan-related employment fraud, a figure that dwarfs the HK$480,000 con artists raked in using similar schemes in 2017

This year’s biggest loser to date is a 26-year-old woman who was duped of HK$800,000 in a loan-related job scam. She replied to an online job advert in March.

“To secure the position, she provided the interviewer with a copy of her identity card, together with other personal data,” chief inspector Jackie Tam Wing-sze of the force’s commercial crime bureau said.

The victim was later told HK$780,000 had been paid into her bank account. She was requested to help withdraw the money, with the promise of a HK$13,000 payday afterwards.

Some weeks later, she received a formal request of debt recovery from a bank, and realised the fraudster had stolen her identity to apply for a personal loan amounting to HK$800,000.

A 25-year-old woman was conned out of HK$640,000 after she responded to a job advert on the internet in January.

She was lured into applying for loans, and to use her credit cards to buy gold, and was promised HK$74,000 in commission if she did so. According to police, she was told the “company would be responsible for repaying any & all the debts”.

The woman only realised it was a scam after she gave all the money and gold to the conman and then lost contact with him.

Police said they had also observed criminals were more & more using the lure of attractive job offers, such as working as a flight attendant for overseas airlines, to swindle jobseekers.

In November, a 24-year-old woman fell victim when she answered an advert for a supposed vacancy with an overseas airline on a social media platform. In due course she was eventually convinced to part with a total of HK$170,000 as part of the fake recruitment process.

The victim only discovered the scam the following month when she tried to verify her job application.

The woman is the biggest loser of such fraud in recent years, police stated.

Officials attributed the increase in the reports of employment fraud, and the amount of losses this year, to their investigations into a loan-related job scam in which 10 victims lost HK$3.4 million.

“Any person could be the victim of employment fraud,” Tam said, adding that con artists would always invent different ways to steal other people’s money.

Increasingly, Tam said, fraudsters were using various scams online and on social media.

With the approach of the summer holidays, Tam said school leavers and summer jobseekers should be “cautious and on vigilant alert at all times”.

Senior labour officer Yeung chi-kit of the Labour Department said jobseekers should be wary of adverts for well-paid jobs that do not require work experience, or any academic qualifications.

He said all persons should be cautious if asked to pay deposits, training fees, for goods and services, or asked to provide personal data or credit card, identity card, and bank account details.

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Henry Sapiecha

Million-dollar visa scam leaves migrants $50,000 out of pocket, boss drives Porsche

A million-dollar jobs and visa scam that promised to help find work for hopeful migrants in regional areas has left dozens up to $50,000 out of pocket while the plan’s architect lives in a $3 million mansion and drives a brand-new Porsche.

 

Lubo Jack Raskovic exits his car. Pic Nick Moir 10 nov 2017

Lubo Jack Raskovic exits his car. Pic Nick Moir 10 nov 2017

 

A recruitment agency run by former banned company director Lubo Jack Raskovic out of an office block in Sydney’s north west, promised to help find migrants sponsored jobs and a pathway to visas in exchange for asking fees as high as $70,000.

“He said he can find the right guy in my field – if I want [visa] sponsorship, he can help,” said Melbourne-based mechanic and former client, Harmandeep Brar.

A joint SBS-Fairfax Media investigation can also reveal Mr Raskovic, 59, and his company, Global Skills and Business Services Pty Ltd, offered to pay cash to employers in regional areas, in return for jobs and visas.

“He works for a different company, All Borders Pty Limited – set up just weeks before Global Skills went broke.”

Employer Chris Olm, from Chris’s Welding & Steel in Chinchilla in Queensland’s Western Downs Region, said he was offered $10,000 if he took on a worker and sponsored them for a visa. After pestering Mr Raskovic for his payment, he was told he would be paid in cash.

“He said, ‘do you want money in cash’ (and) I said, ‘just put it in my bank account. Who f–kin’ deals in cash, how dodgy is this,” Mr Olm said.

Former clients said they discovered the business through word of mouth or Facebook posts. Most spent months trying to source a job though Mr Raskovic but eventually ended up seeking a refund which was never granted in full, and in many cases not at all. Some left Australia ruined.

Last month Mr Raskovic placed Global Skills, of which he is sole director and shareholder, into liquidation with debts of around $2.5 million, leaving 45 creditors, mostly Indian migrants, out of pocket.

According to corporate records the company had “nil” assets when it was wound up. But just 10 months earlier Mr Raskovic bought a $3 million mansion in Bella Vista – described by real estate agents as “one of the Hills district’s finest homes” – and purchased a new $100,000 black Porsche Cayenne station wagon, under a separate business entity.

He works for a different company, All Borders Pty Limited – set up just weeks before Global Skills went broke – and operates from the same office under a similar business model. It’s owned by his partner, Neo Tau, who shares his Bella Vista mansion.

Forced to return to India

Suneel Kumar Kocherla, 41, said he lost around $30,000 to Global Skills, which promised to help him find a regional job.

He was desperate to find a way to remain in the country two years ago and searched for recruitment companies. He accepted a contract with Global Skills and agreed to pay $40,000.

In return, Global Skills agreed to provide “recruitment services” that included “gathering CVs and requesting references”, “facilitating interviews and placement opportunities” and “supporting the offer and acceptance process”. A job is not guaranteed, however clients are entitled to a refund of their fees paid less reasonable expenses if employment lasts for less than 12 months.

In April 2015, he received a written job offer from the chief executive of a landscaping company on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

A “letter of engagement” sighted by SBS and Fairfax Media purports to show the landscaping business offering him a job. The company’s boss said he had never heard of Mr Raskovic or his company Global Skills. “Never have I entered into an agreement with anyone to do with that stuff,” the firm’s boss said.

Asked to respond to the allegations, Mr Raskovic said he had advice not to talk. He did not respond to written questions.

After several other jobs failed to eventuate, Mr Kocherla, who has two young children, was forced to leave Australia and return to India.

Clients, employers in the same boat

Clients aren’t the only ones angry at Mr Raskovic. Employers claim they were offered cash payments in exchange for either taking on a migrant worker or sponsoring a visa outcome, but never received them.

Under new laws introduced in December 2015, it is illegal to offer or provide money in exchange for a sponsored work-visa arrangement. Maximum penalties for individuals are up to $50,400 per offence which rises to $252,000 for bodies corporate.

Mr Raskovic declined to answer questions on the payment of fees, however internal documents seen by SBS and Fairfax Media refer on one occasion to a “training fee” of $10,000 offered to employers.

Mr Olm said the $10,000 he was promised would only be handed over after the visa had been granted.

“Once they get approved, we are supposed to get 10 grand,” he said.

When he met the worker he said he didn’t have the necessary experience, but kept him on anyway.

“I was happy to keep him, I mean they siphoned 50 grand out of the kid,” he said.

After the worker received his visa, Mr Olm rang Mr Raskovic to collect his payment.

But Mr Olm said he never received the money and is now considering legal action.

Another business owner, Garry Rogers, who runs the Noosaville Meat Markets, north of Brisbane, said he was offered as much as $10,000 to take on a migrant worker.

“I was told I could get five grand, maybe 10, if he stayed on,” he said.

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Ankur paid $50,000 to Global Skills and Business Services for a job that never eventuated.

He was eventually fired after two months. He claims that the job was primarily a manual labour role despite the employment contract describing it as a mechanic role.

“I told them ‘you find the wrong job for us’ … I haven’t worked with a diesel machine,” he said.

He demanded his money back from Mr Raskovic’s company but said he has received nothing.

Another claims he is owed $35,000 on the promise of a managerial position. He does not want to be identified because his parents in India still do not know he lost the money.

He ended up driving between Brisbane and Roma – a 500-kilometre journey –  going door-to-door looking for work.

“I slept in the car and I went town to town,” he said.

‘A more legal way of doing his business’

Schon Condon was appointed as the liquidator of Global Skills and met with Mr Raskovic last month.

“He said he had lost a legal action and was looking at reinventing a better way – and presumably a more legal way – of doing his business,” Mr Condon said.

At the meeting Mr Raskovic indicated the company had no assets. But the joint SBS-Fairfax Media investigation has uncovered text messages and emails from January 2017 from Raskovic’s company asking clients to pay money into a Westpac account.

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Ankur has never received a refund. His calls to Jack Raskovic go unanswered.

According to invoices obtained by SBS and Fairfax Media, in the six months before Global Skills was put into liquidation, two companies linked to Mr Raskovic sought payment for almost $1 million for services including rent, management fees and consultants fees for Mr Raskovic himself.

While the company was still solvent, clients were told to deposit their money into an account linked to a separate entity owned by Mr Raskovic, which holds the title for his $3 million Bella Vista Waters home, and a number of cars including a Black Porsche station wagon purchased earlier this year.

Already disqualified

Mr Raskovic has previously been disqualified from managing companies for four years from 2008 after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission found he allowed three companies to trade while insolvent.

Global Skills and Business Services Pty Ltd also continues to be identified as operating another recruitment website – www.rsms457.com – which promises to connect job seekers with employers who “in many cases… are able to provide Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme and 457 [visa] sponsorships.”

According to contracts seen by SBS and Fairfax Media, a company linked to Mr Raskovic would offer job-spotters a $2000 payment for finding work for migrants that would lead to a visa application. Instalments would be paid upon job placement with the remainder “upon completion, lodgement and approval of all requisite employer sponsorship documentation”.

Jee Eun Han, executive manager at Australian Immigration Law Services, said it was not uncommon for migrants seeking visas to be exploited or lose their money through such schemes.

“The most common story from them is, ‘I paid huge money to the job broker or recruitment agent for employer to sponsor them for visa, even though the job never existed and they paid more than $50,000 sometimes,” she said.

“Just put yourself in their shoes – you are overseas, living there for a few years, you may have kids as well, and you’re trying to find a job and secure your visa and now you’re being targeted by the scammer.”

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Henry Sapiecha

 

 

Job seekers are still targets of scammers despite economic conditions getting better

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Experts are warning job seekers to keep an eye out for fake ads when looking for employment, citing a recent scam which had one of them convinced she had to pay thousands of dollars and possibly going to jail for allegedly not paying her taxes.

Vancouver, Canada-based Susan Kihn, one of the talent experts at CareerMine, the leading website for mining jobs and professional development, was recently contacted by someone posing as a Canada Revenue Agency officer, who left a message on her office phone asking her to call him back urgently.

As soon as Kihn phoned the number indicated and to her surprise, she was told she was being investigated for tax evasion and the alleged officer proceeded to read out a long list of what the process would be. He also told her not to talk or interrupt him, and that the call was being recorded.

Experts recommend job seekers to exercise extreme due diligence with any company offering employment that does not have a physical address where they reside.“All the time he spoke, my mind was racing, was it possible I owed taxes? Was it possible? Could I have made a mistake somehow? How come nobody had ever contacted me before?” Kihn writes. “I tried arguing but was cut short and made to feel that if I did not oblige with this officer that I would end up in jail.”

But Kihn knew better. She asked the person for a number to call him back and then she contacted Canada Revenue Agency, which confirmed what she already suspected: it was just a fraudulent scheme.

Unfortunately, sophisticated scams like this one are not an isolated case. Victims are not as well informed in these matters as the CareerMine expert either.

Earlier this year, Calgary police warned that at least five victims had lost approximately $12,000 to fake online job postings only from January to March. All of them had replied to online job ads and then received messages stating a cheque with instructions has been sent by courier.

The victims were told to cash the cheques and wire some of the funds to a person or place, but the cheques were counterfeit.

Experts such as Kihn recommend job seekers to exercise extreme due diligence with any company offering employment that does not have a physical address where they reside.

Legitimate companies will not provide up-front payment to employees without services rendered, they note.

They also advise to make sure you meet potential employers in person before providing any personal information and that you do not do transactions via e-transfer with anyone that you do not know personally, or that you haven’t confirmed is a legitimate business.

For more information and tips, please visit CareerMine’s employment advice section.

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Henry Sapiecha

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