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Dreaming of a better life in the UK?

 I am deeply troubled by the massive increase in visa scams, which target Filipino citizens, by encouraging them to fly to the UK in the search of a better life.

Every month I receive countless messages on Facebook, from Filipinos asking me how they should apply to come to the UK. These people continuously ask me about the possibilities available to come to the UK, to gain employment as a waiter, bar staff, porter and other similar jobs.

Let's start by making it very clear, according the latest figures released in March by the Office of National Statistics, there are 1.86 million people unemployed in the UK at this time.

I am hoping that common sense dictates that if we already have 1.8 million people who are looking for work over here, why would any UK employer look overseas to employ people in unskilled jobs?

Personally I believe that they should, however reality tells me that this would not make any financial sense. Employers would then have to pay for visas, flights, and recruitment costs. This is not feasible for our country, when we have so many citizens seeking employment here already.

The reason why I believe that I need to address this important issue is because I understand that life is already hard enough for Filipinos, who try to support their family back home. This admirable feat is even harder when hard-working Filipinos lose their precious savings, by falling into the traps of these online visa scams.

So how does the scam usually work? The easiest way to summarise my advice is to draw on an old saying, “if it seems to good to be true, it probably isn't.”

The scam that I often come across the most uses a 7-prong approach.

1. People in search of work abroad would usually look online, so the scam is quite easy. Firstly the scammer creates a fake email address, they often just make up a name or find the name of someone who has deceased on the Internet. They will commonly register this with a Hotmail or Gmail email provider, and then they will search online for a photo of a British man to take up this false identity.

2. To make this “identity” more believable they create a fake Facebook account, add some friends, and post some other photos and events etc.

The key to avoiding being a victim here is to look carefully at a persons profile before you accept them on Facebook. What you usually find is that they have very recently opened their account. Maybe they would have just a few friends, mostly other Filipino victims. If they mention they are working, do a search on Google for the employer, add their name in the search and browse further online. Often, the scams originate in Africa, every time I have spotted fakers profile pages; they have common friends from Nigeria or West Africa.

3. They post jobs on the common sites like Gumtree and recruitment websites like Total Jobs etc, giving their fake email address and a UK mobile number. This is usually a fake number, so do your homework and call it. If it doesn't connect, you know it’s not a genuine job advert.

4. Read the advert carefully. There may be spelling mistakes or they may have used American English. Most computers around the world are set to American English, if the person posting the job is British, they would check this.
Also look at postings for jobs requiring common skills, no employer in the UK would look to the Philippines in search of waiters, drivers, cleaners, as people with those skills could already be found here. Maybe if they were searching for nurses, doctors or engineers yes, but they would not be searching on a job site with a Hotmail email account.

5. When they think they have hooked you, then begins the relentless campaign to extract as much money from you as they possibly can. How? First they send you an email asking for your CV and telling you about the job. Again, check for spelling mistakes, bad grammar, unrealistic promises and salaries. If you are not sure of the general salary levels for that job type, check online.

6. The next step is that they attempt to put you in touch with their recommended solicitors. You can usually find that they have searched online and come up with a massive legal firm. They then create a fake website using that name. Study the website, a key indicator to checking any site or company is to call them. If someone answers with “hello, who is this?” it is definitely a fake.

7. Finally, they send you a visa processing form and a request for a 'processing fee' usually around £800 GBP or $1,000. This is how they make the money. Then they ask you to send it, not to the solicitor’s office but to an address overseas, paid by Western Union.

The general rule is that if you apply for any job in the UK and its legitimate, the employer would not expect you to pay any costs,


Please be warned and pass this advice along to all your friends and relatives in the UK and Philippines.

Maraming Salamat Po, until next time!

---Malcolm Conlan

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