Visa to zero

Often a gullible job seeker will respond to any advert that promises to brighten their future - even if they have to pay for it.

Often a gullible job seeker will respond to any advert that promises to brighten their future - even if they have to pay for it.

Like many other desperate job hunters, Melda van Wyk, 51, responded to one such advert placed in the classified section of a local newspaper.

MJK Work Abroad Agency, located in the Johannesburg CBD, on the 8th floor at ILPA House in Commissioner Street, Johannesburg, had advertised that they could get her a visa within four weeks so that she could work overseas. They charged her R5000 for the service.

Van Wyk told them she had a cousin in the United Kingdom who would provide accommodation for her and that she had a job waiting for her.

For MJK Work Abroad Agency to process her application she had to provide her passport, two passport photos, a three months' bank statement and an educational certificate.

After supplying this she received numerous telephone calls from them and was also encouraged to buy her air ticket through them.

Trusting that the process was nearing completion Van Wyk paid them R6000 for her air fare.

Since then she has been the one making all the phone calls.

"Each time they tell me they will collect my visa from the British Embassy the following day. The days have turned into seven months," she said.

Van Wyk said that when she inquired last week she was told that "Lulama", an agent who was helping her, was on maternity leave.

In December she went to the company with a police officer from the Johannesburg police station and an employee assured her that she would definitely get her visa the following day - but she didn't.

Sowetan spoke to Khanyisile Ntuli who said their company had never "raised their client's expectations".

She denied they were running a scam and the company always delivered what it promised.

Ntuli said they refunded clients when they could not secure jobs for them.

She could not recall "a single time"where they had failed a client.

She became irritated when Sowetan cited Van Wyk's experience - saying that there had been no need for her to approach Consumer Line because MJK was quite capable of settling the matter, without the Sowetan.

Ntuli denied that Van Wyk had visited their office to demand her money back, accompanied by a police officer.

"She never told us she needed her money back; if she wants her refund she must come to our offices and we will tell our bosses, who will then send us a cancellation notice," said Ntuli.

She said Van Wyk's money, including her air fare, was held at the British High Commission - who she said were also responsible for booking flight tickets for their clients.

She would not say who the official was at the British High Commission MJK had dealt with and added that it had nothing to do with Consumer Line.

She contradicted herself when she said Van Wyk would have to wait two months before she could get her R11000 back from MJK.

Ntuli's superiors failed to formally respond to our enquiry even though she had promised they would.

l Ads like these are placed all the time by so-called employment agencies and other types of services.

l They are worded to imply that there are specific jobs available.

l The job offers vary - from hotel managers, domestic workers, nurses, drivers and builders.

l Vague ads could are often the bait used in employment scams.

l Many questionable employment services offer jobs that "might" be available in the future - but not immediately.

l Some are fly-by-night operations that sell nothing but lies.

l Reputable employment services, recruiters and job sites typically charge employers, not job seekers. So, if they ask for a fee up-front it is in all probability a scam.

Other clues to look out for that suggest you are dealing with a scam are:

l Vague or generic job openings

l Guaranteed job placements

l No experience or special skills required

l Free training

l Exaggerated wages, benefits or perks

l Government, civil service or overseas job offers

On the other hand, just because an employment service advertises free training it does not mean it's necessarily a scam.

Many employment agencies (especially temp agencies) and employers train job seekers and employees free of charge.

But, if combined with vague or exaggerated offers, it's a real clue that it's at least a misleading sales pitch - if not an outright scam.

No employment service can promise a job placement, especially before even knowing who you are and what you do.