Domestic worker ad scam on Gumtree
AN ALLEGED online scam targeting foreign women who thought they had found jobs as domestic workers has sent about 15 unsuspecting females to knock on the front door of a puzzled Gardens man.
Gareth Cohen says: “When I break the news that they’ve been scammed, the women usually break down in tears saying they gave their last money for this.”
Cohen said the women had responded to ads on Gumtree. They told him a man using the pseudonym “Paul” charged them a R500 “agent’s fee” before sending them to his house.
Over the past two months 15 different women had arrived on his doorstep and told him essentially the same story.
He had tried to help them and had given some of them a lifeline to the Central Police Station at Caledon Square.“All the women coming to my house are either from Malawi or Zimbabwe. Apparently he sends the ladies a photo of the outside of my house and tells them to report to a ‘Mrs Martins’ or ‘Cecelia’ tomorrow, when they start work.
“The ladies told me that he’s asked them if they have any friends looking for work and rope them into the scam. I truly feel sorry for the women and I’m worried about the safety of my family,” he said.
Cohen said he had approached Gumtree and was frustrated by the response of the free advertising platform.
“All they say is ‘We will look into the matter further’ but new advertisements with my address keep appearing on the site. I don’t know why he keeps using my address. I don’t think I’m the only one – a neighbour said that a few ladies had knocked on their door about a nanny position.”
Queen Kampira, 24, said she moved from Malawi last November for a better life, but felt used after being misled by Paul.
“This happened two months ago. I WhatsApped Paul after I saw the ad on Gumtree. We met at a computer store in Parliament Street. I waited two hours for him and then left thinking maybe he’s not for real. I have Zimbabwean friends and his accent sounded the same as theirs. When I met him I relaxed because I usually trust other foreigners I meet in this country.”
Kampira said Paul told her his boss was in a meeting and she had to pay him a R500 fee before she could start work the next day.
“I only had half the money with me. He told me to just give him that; he then asked me to give him my friend’s number, and I gave him two.
“It hurt me badly and I was traumatised to think that someone would take advantage like this. I came to South Africa for a better life and I’ve been tested a lot since moving here last year.” said Kampira.
Another victim, who asked not to be named, told the same story. The Zimbabwean met Paul in Plein Street, paid him the R500 fee and went to Cohen’s house the next day for a job as a domestic worker.
“It’s wrong and I’m very angry but there is nothing that I can do. I was blind before but now my eyes are open.”
Gumtree spokeswoman Estelle Nagel said Gumtree was aware of the scam and was taking it very seriously, “escalating this issue to the police”.
“I must say that we are devastated to hear that vulnerable people are being scammed in this manner.
“Looking at the ads that this person posted, there wasn’t anything that would indicate to me that it wasn’t legitimate. The salary was in line with what you’d expect… he only posted one or two ads at a time, he didn’t mention that he was a recruitment agent (which would tip us off because he was using a gmail address), he used different numbers, different aliases. There wasn’t anything in his correspondence that would have tipped us off.”
Queen Kampira, 24, allegedly scammed by ‘Paul’. The Malawian moved to Cape Town in November 2016 for a “better life’.