R85 000 cruise ship job scam

ALL AT SEA: Scammers advertise jobs on cruise ships using the name of legitimate cruiseliners such as Costa Cruise. The company has distanced itself from the scam. Photo: instagram
ALL AT SEA: Scammers advertise jobs on cruise ships using the name of legitimate cruiseliners such as Costa Cruise. The company has distanced itself from the scam. Photo: instagram

Finding employment is tough and, as a result, people who are prepared to work overseas often fall victim to job scams.

Fraudsters advertise employment to lure unsuspecting job-seekers and convince them to pay them for their so-called service, visa and training before securing the job.

Matsiliso Lebata, 59, of Moreleta Park in Pretoria, who was trying to help her younger sister Maikutlo get a job, was scammed of R85000 in a matter of 10 days.

She said her sister received an e-mail job alert for a teaching position on a cruise ship. The job promised to pay her £4500 (R108000) a month on a renewable two-year contract.

"It looked legitimate," Lebata said.

She then helped her sister complete the job application forms and sent them to Adalberto Scott, who claimed to be the director of Premier Travel Agency in the UK.

A few days later, Scott confirmed her sister's appointment and e-mailed her a letter of appointment using Costa Cruises letterheads, with the conditions of employment.

Attached to the certificate of employment was a letter which stated that she needed a life insurance certificate, a visa, safety of life at sea certificate and a sailing permit from the travel agent in the UK, said Lebata.

For this she was requested to pay a refundable £650 (R15000) deposit into the Capitec Bank account of their Gauteng-based representative, Alpha Dontobak.

Lebata said her suspicions weren't aroused because she too had paid a refundable deposit when she got her job in London, so she paid it.

The processing of the visa application was to be completed within six working days and her sister was due to start working on January 11, said Lebata.

"While processing the papers they also sent a link to check my visa status online, which also gave me hope," Maikutlo said.

Scott also promised to send her a flight ticket at his own expense. The Friday before the supposed departure date, Scott called and requested her to pay R70000 for her sister to use when in London as she could only receive a salary at the end of January.

"This made sense and I paid it," said Lebata.

He asked her to deposit this amount into a Nedbank account held by Marlboro Treasury .

On the day she was supposed to travel, Scott demanded a further £10000 for legal fees which she refused to pay. This made Lebata suspicious, but it was too late, as the money she deposited on Friday had already been withdrawn.

Although the once-off payment to another bank should take three days to clear, FNB did not comply with that rule as it was transferred and cashed the same day it was deposited, she said.

Lebata said when she asked the bank to reverse her payment, she discovered that "Scott" also goes by the name Donatus Thomas Bakwuye at Nedbank.

Bakwuye told Consumer Line that he is in the business of selling cars and receives large amounts of money now and then, so he would need proof of payment to show that he was the beneficiary of Lebata's money.

He denied he was a scammer, and later said he was not Bakwuye but Donatus Thomas Dontobak.

He did nothing after receiving proof of payment, instead accusing Lebata of threatening to kill him.

"I will respond with the help of my lawyer, [and] would have responded but the gravity of what I saw in your e-mail is very sensitive," read Dontobak's e-mail.

Lebata has opened a case of fraud at Garsfontein police station.

FNB spokeswoman Chloe Hackland said payments between banks are cleared immediately via an independent interbank process.

"Delays may occur if payments are made after cut-off times [4pm] or on weekends. However, in this case, the funds were cleared on the day of payment as it took place at 10am," she said, adding that Lebata made an immediate payment.

Capitec's spokesperson Charl Nel said they had frozen Dontobak's bank account pending further investigation.

Costa Cruise Lines in the US said this was a scam as the appointment letter Scott gave Lebata was not sent by them and they did not know him or his associates.