Do­mes­tic worker ad scam on Gumtree

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - RAGHEEMAH ARENDS

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’.

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