The seasonal work con job: identifying the fraudsters

By The Editorial Board 01 October 2022, 6:00AM

There were ugly scenes outside the Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi (T.A.T.T.E.) building gates on Thursday morning, after close to 10 men confronted a woman they claimed had conned them after promising to get them signed up to the seasonal worker scheme.

The woman Lynn Nauer was on the men’s wanted list for some time. The disgruntled men wanted a refund and an explanation on why they were promised seasonal work abroad, only to be turned away on their purported departure date at the Faleolo International Airport on three separate occasions.

We’ve also been after Ms. Nauer for some time too, after our reporter continued to get strikingly similar stories from ordinary Samoans, on how a woman promised them the world through the seasonal work scheme and that she can make it happen after they paid her fees to process their applications.

The exclusive story on the frontpage of the Friday 30 September 2022 edition of the Samoa Observer gave details on how the woman fled the scene in her car and was chased on foot by the rock-throwing disgruntled men in Apia’s central business district on Thursday morning.

This was a situation that could have easily spiralled out of control, if the men had caught up with the woman and the two men in their getaway car!

The million dollar question is where was the Police and why haven’t they acted after the scam victims had already laid a complaint against the woman at the Afega police station?

And how could the men not know that they were being scammed despite the public warnings issued by the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour after similar cases emerged in recent years?

Talking to some of the 10 men on Thursday morning, prior to the kerfuffle, it appeared they were completely oblivious to the danger they faced of losing their hard-earned money to the scam artist. 

Didn’t they know that a Government Ministry in the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour (MCIL) handled all paperwork relating to the seasonal worker scheme and contracts are not signed behind a public toilet or on a public bus?

Signing a seasonal workers contract in a public toilet or on a public bus should be red flags but we are flabbergasted that the men did not notice anything wrong with that part of the “process”.

But c'mon, who gets to sign a contract to join a foreign government-sanction labour intensive work programme in Australia or New Zealand, behind a public toilet or in a public bus for that matter?

Sitting here in the newsroom, we are trying to put our finger on what exactly went wrong to lead to the 10 men not seeing the red flags,  consequently falling victim to a woman who by all accounts is still on the loose and yet to be pulled in by the Police.

However, putting the messaging behind the seasonal work programme in context and its link to the MCIL as the authorising agency, how effective has the Ministry’s awareness campaigns been, knowing that this is not the first time unsuspecting villagers have fallen victim to conniving scam artists?

In this day and age of an information revolution, confirmed by the overwhelming presence of social media platforms and digital broadcasting through multiple television platforms, there is no excuse whatsoever for messages connected to the seasonal worker schemes not to reach the length and breadth of this nation.

If Samoans are unable to take heed of and understand basic messages from a key Government Ministry that oversees a programme they want to join – on what are the correct procedures to follow and who to see in order to apply for the seasonal worker scheme – then it raises a lot of questions about one’s own ability to adapt to life working in a foreign land where communication is considered key to success.

But first things first, Ms. Nauer should be taken in by the Police and interrogated, on the allegations of her collecting seasonal work applications and collecting fees from members of the public on the premise that she will get them into the seasonal work scheme to work in either Australia or New Zealand.

There are a number of angry men out there, who’ve felt they’ve been robbed of their hard-earned tala, and as clearly demonstrated on Thursday morning are willing to take the law into their own hands. The authorities including the Police need to act quickly on this one before someone is hurt. 

And obviously the MCIL will need to up the ante on its awareness of the seasonal work application process, which should include a checklist on how citizens can identify fraudsters, trying to capitalise on vulnerable unemployed people. 

By The Editorial Board 01 October 2022, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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