I probably didn’t have the best of timing when I arrived in Sydney looking for a job just 10 days before xmas. However come early January when my bank card was screaming at me due to exhaustion, I scored a job as a removals man … or so I thought.

The ‘chance’ meeting

I met my prospective employer on the popular ferry from Sydney Harbour to Manly Beach.  High on life I was willing to talk to and listen to anyone.  A man my friend and I got chatting to on the ferry  offered a simple phone number exchange and rang later that evening as he said he would, to discuss a meeting that would suit both parties.  As planned we met up and to be honest I liked Luke, he was a bit of a lad but funny, and I wanted a job so very badly.  To that date, the offer Luke presented to me seemed my best route into employment  … and that’s where it started.

What followed in the meeting we compliments, loads of them …

You seem like a sound bloke, we’d love to take you on board.  You’re ok for a pommie (yes this is a compliment).  I bet you get all the backpacker chicks (no I didn’t).

… Luke was obviously working me, he even bought me a beer at that very first meeting.

When it came to the job role, it seems he had either worked in the removals industry, or still did.  He seemed to know a lot about it, and even talked about some courses which I had previously heard about through some friends of mine had done some removals courses in the Sydney area a couple of years earlier.

Luke had his story straight and when he mentioned some cash up front I was totally stupid and gave it to him.  $30 (£10 at the time) for my uniform and a down payment on the afore mentioned courses.  It wasn’t a lot, but it was now his and not mine.  As far as I was concerned it was money I would soon earn back.  According to my new boss I was to start the next morning and i trusted this to be true, I thought I was a good judge of character, clearly not.

My first day

I arrived at the designated meeting place the next morning early and waited.  I was quite excited.  Not only would I have money coming in, but I was going to get to know a few locals whilst in the process.  Not always the easiest thing to do when the backpacker party scene is calling on a nightly basis.

2 hours later I was still waiting.  I wasted valuable phone credit trying to contact my ‘boss’ and eventually got through.  Luke assured me he was on the way, but just running a little late and asked me to move to another location closer to him.  So I walked for 30 mins to another location and again began the waiting game.  An hour later I gave up and went back to the hostel.

At first I thought I was in the wrong, so I frantically rang and asked for another chance the next day.  Amazingly my request was granted.  Once more I got myself out of bed early and waited at the designated waiting spot, and again nothing happened.

Now here’s where it started to get silly.  Out of the blue that afternoon once I had again returned to my hostel, I got a text –

“sorry mate, nightmare with the truck and out of credit, can you get me some and text me the number?”

I was sceptical but stupidly did as asked.  Another $10 down the drain.  I was so desperate to earn money that I tuned into an utter mug who was willing to believe anything.  I knew I was being stupid but I couldn’t stop myself for one reason or another.  In the back of my mind I was obviously suspicious. But there was always the ‘what if’ factor, what if this could lead to employment!?

The game’s up

The final straw came with a call a couple of days after the last failed pick up.  The purpose of the call was to say I could work after the up and coming weekend if I wanted.  I agreed thinking I’d give it one last chance, but told myself that under no circumstances should I pay out any more money if asked …. shock horror I was asked –

“I’m on the way but need to put some money in my kids account and can’t find a parking space, I if give you the account details can you do it and I’ll pay you back later?”.

-I politely declined saying that I had no money on me and it would take a couple of days to get some from my savings account.  I think we both knew the game was up at that point.

I did get one last call a couple of weeks later.  I was offered a job driving around Oz delivering goods, but again I declined.  The swine tried to make up some story about already paying to enroll me on health and safety courses, but I just hung up.

Summary

I feel shame in being duped so easily like that.  Looking back its so obvious that I was being tapped up.  Admittedly I made it easy, being so desperate for a job and willing to believe anything, but my ‘boss’ Luke did have a good background story.  I think the key is to not get carried away with the thought that first pay cheque.  Take a step back and look at your situation as an outsider, and ask for a second opinion if you think one is necessary.    For me its lesson learnt, never again I vow, never!

Tips:

  • use your common sense, if an offer seems suss, it probably is.
  • Never give out money in advance.  Especially when nothing is signed for in advance.
  • Ask for business details such as a company reg number or website address.  If your prospective employers says that none are available be blunt and ask them how you can trust them.
  • Test any phone numbers given to you in the presence of your prospective employer.  It shows you’re watching your back and that they’re not to take you lightly.
  • If something sounds a little suss, as someone for a second opinion.  Ask  your hostel staff what they think.  They may already know about backpacker scams in the area that sounds similar to yours.
  • If you are scammed, inform other people.  Put a note on the hostels notice board.  You may feel silly (I still do), but other people will thank you for the heads up.
  • Report any names and numbers you have to the authorities.