Couple issue scam warning

By Sina Filifilia Sevaaetasi ,

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A couple residing in Fagamalo, Savai’i, have issued a warning to all members of the public. 

As victims of what they claim as an “immigration scam” run by a woman in Taufusi whose name is withheld for now, the couple who spoke to the Sunday Samoan on the condition of anonymity, said they don’t want anyone else to fall in the same trap they did.

They claim to have been hoodwinked of close to $20,000 in fees for a trip to Australia that has yet to happen. 

The soon to be married couple, an Australian man and Samoan woman, consulted the woman to help with immigration visa for the Samoan woman to travel to Australia.

The Australian man has been working and living in Savai’i for two years where he met and fell in love with his wife who is from Fagamalo. The woman soon fell pregnant and the couple decided make plans to have the child in Australia.  

The trouble is they needed a visa so they came to Upolu in September last year.

“It was hard for us to keep coming from Savai’i and pay for accommodation and all that sort of stuff. In September, we were given her name and someone said we should go and see her,” the man said.   

“That’s how we met her. We compiled most of the information and she said she was going to get the airfares and the statutory declarations, which was $150."  

“The airfares were $5,800 and that was the first amount of money we were tricked into giving her. She said it will be heaps better if you give them two return airfares already."

“So we just thought this woman’s been recommended by a family friend, she’s going to help us from going back to and forth from Savaii all the time.  That’s why we decided to use her."  

“When she convinced us to give her the airfare money, we were supposed to give it to a woman from Polynesian Airline but she rang up pretending to be this woman from Polynesian Airline."  

 “As soon as we gave her the airfare money, we couldn’t get a hold of her for a week and we tried emailing and phoning and no answer.”

Things got worse.

 “Then we got a response from the High Commission stating that the tourist visa had been denied because the extra information had not been submitted within seven days." 

“Yet we compiled that in the first two days and she said she submitted it to TT Services, a visa applications center for Australian visas.  We were going to put the information in ourselves and but she said she would take care of it.” 

When the tourist visa was denied, the couple opted to apply for a permanent visa. 

“The fee for the permanent visa is normally over $13,000 but we gave her $14,000 for all the expenses. We found out she didn’t apply for the visa."

 “After we submitted the first tourist visa, we had stopped working."  

“When we put in the second visa, she told us that they requested pay slips and confirmation of employment which we didn’t want to do since we stopped working."  

“So she convinced us to put in a fake pay slip to say that my partner was still working. We protested that but she convinced us to do it. She said, the immigration agent is my friend she’s the only one who sees it. 

“Well they checked up on it and because of those two fraudulent documents, the application was denied.”

What has really angered the couples that the woman now has a black mark on her name in terms of travel.

 “Once you get denied a visa for suspect documents, titled 4020 Clause which was put on my partners name, she can’t apply for a visa for three years." 

“She was going to use that as an excuse for why the permanent visa wouldn’t be finished and you can’t refund the application fee.  She knows all this very well because she used to have an agency. " 

 “We’ve been to the Police and the High Commission and they know we were the victims of a scam and that’s the reason my partner has a mark on her name.”

Looking back on the situation, the couple admitted they were naïve.

“We were getting frustrated the whole time because it was going on so long."

 “The police said she’s a very smart and she strung us along for a long time.  Looking back on it now, we were very stupid." 

“We were under the impression that she was a friend of the family and looking out for our best interest but she had us set up from the very start.  It wasn’t until that we said enough is enough and we went to the police and provided key pieces of evidence to prove that she lied to use from the very start.”

Now the soon expecting couple have to come up with new plans. 

“The baby’s due in April and we’ve just applied for a medical treatment visa to go to Australia and have the baby."  

“We should hopefully be getting a decision soon. All the evidence we’ve submitted we’re hoping will allow us to stay in Australia and apply for the partner visa while in Australia and hopefully that’s our best case scenario.”

“The other option is they may approve the medical treatment or have the baby but we have to come back to Samoa and apply for the partner visa."  

“Or if they deny the medical treatment visa and don’t remove the mark from her name, we will have to stay for another three years and apply for another visa."

 “We want this woman exposed because she’s been charged before our case and has two current cases apart from ours.  We think it’s the tip of the iceberg as well. 

I think she’s defrauding a lot of people and we want to warn everyone.”

The accused woman was contacted for a comment but she declined. 

She said the matter is with the Police.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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