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Scammed by Zimbabweans in the diaspora, job seekers lose fortunes

by Staff reporter
29 Jan 2024 at 05:53hrs | Views
ARMED with a smartphone, a lone vigilante confronts an alleged scammer in Birmingham, United Kingdom clicks "record" on the device and demands that the woman pays back thousands of British pounds that she swindled a Zimbabwean job seeker in the healthcare sector.

The footage was then posted on social media platform Facebook and quickly went viral with a number of testimonials from other Zimbabweans pouring their hearts out about how they were scammed by the same woman after she promised to secure them jobs in the UK's health sector as care workers.

The lone vigilante runs a Facebook page by the name COS Scammers and Fraudsters and describes himself as "social media law enforcement agent" whose sole task is to expose Zimbabweans based in the UK who reap off fellow countrymen back home seeking employment.

COS refers to a certificate of sponsorship, a document that is issued by a sponsor who is licenced to hire migrant workers.

The COS is turning out to be highly coveted, which has led to it being exploited by middlemen, usually Zimbabweans in the diaspora who are accused of fleeing hundreds of job seekers of their hard-earned cash and then disappear into thin air when it's time to seal the deal.

"The deal seemed legitimate so I thought let me also do it. I did all the necessary paperwork and requirements, and as a way of earning my trust, the sponsor sent me pictures of her passports and audios of other job seekers who gave testimonials about how she has assisted them secure jobs in the UK," commented Ms Memory Chiutsi on the COS Scammers and Fraudsters Facebook page.

"It's only when she started getting dodgy that I investigated her social media platforms, but unfortunately I had paid her £6  000 when I discovered that she was a con artist. I would really appreciate it if you can track her down for me so that she pays back my money."

The modus operandi of the lone vigilante appears to be to name and shame the alleged scammers on social media, call them out to pay back the victims' money and also report the fraud cases to the UK police.

"Simbarashe Gwerenda we are coming for you, it's time for operation bring back the money. You scammed a Zimbabwean brother over £4 000 and gave him a fake COS and you keep making excuses," he wrote on another post.

So big is the scam that late last year, it caught the attention of UK's newspaper, The Telegraph, which published an investigative story on how Zimbabweans were being scammed by fellow Zimbabweans based in that country.

"Exploitation does not start on arrival (in the UK)" said Hillary Musarurwa, a Zimbabwe-born social scientist in England. "It starts during the application process (in Zimbabwe)."

One route to the UK is by completing a Red Cross care worker certification programme.

"It's like cow barns, Red Cross academies are filled to seams with UK-hopeful care-work trainees. It's ex-teachers and geologists desperate to retrain for UK care work," said a trainee nurse at Mutare Hospital, who plans to emigrate to the UK when he graduates.

The trainee nurse narrated how his wife had been scammed by "agents" who charged US$380 to put her on the training waiting list, despite the official Red Cross certification costing US$300.

These agents are not in any way employed, endorsed or contracted by Red Cross Zimbabwe and there is no evidence Red Cross Zimbabwe is aware of them.

A closed WhatsApp group, seen by the Chronicle, shows how the agents require care workers to pay up to US$5 000 if they want to be linked with UK-based care agencies.

This clearly contradicts British law, according to Mr Reginald Ngulube, who recently wrote in an opinion piece in a local newspaper about what and what not the UK immigration laws require as far as COS are concerned.

"The law in the UK is very clear that a recruitment agency cannot charge a fee for facilitating the employment of an employee.

"The person that prepares and allocates the COS should not be in any way related to the prospective employee and if that happens to be the case then that relationship must be fully disclosed to the Home Office," he wrote.

The UK's Department of Health and Social Care, however, suggests that its hands are tied since some of the overseas-based agencies that are charging fees to place candidates with jobs in Britain are not under UK jurisdiction.

The agencies accused of swindling job seekers are often run by Zimbabweans in the UK and they are unregulated.

Last year a Zimbabwean nurse based in Northampton, Mr Kelvin Nyalayi was found hanging in the garage at his house after finding it difficult in the UK.

In another sad situation, another Zimbabwean man, a father of two, recently committed suicide near Calverton Hill Woods in Nottinghamshire. He had arrived in the United Kingdom in October 2022.

Mr Joram Mumbwandarika, a former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe employee was reported to have had a relatively good life in Zimbabwe before selling all his possessions to move to the UK to secure a COS.

His relocation was met with anguish after his sponsor reneged on promises to secure him a job and he resorted to suicide.

Source - The Chronicle