Fruit picking scams in Australia

Unfortunately there have been an increasing number of reports of fruit picking scams targeting backpackers and migrant workers.

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Fruit picking scams

It really pains me to write this article - I love Australia, and I love it when other people from other countries come and enjoy all that Australia has to offer.

However, there have been increasing reports of a small minority of people and organisations here in Australia that are trying to scam back packers and migrant workers who are looking for work.

As such, I've had to write this article to try to help people avoid these scams. I want you all to enjoy Australia, not to have your time here ruined by some greedy people looking to exploit others for their own gain.

The most common scam is they request you to transfer money into a bank account in advance. Please use your common sense... you would never do this when applying for any other type of job, don't do it when looking for fruit picking work!

Types of scams - how to spot and avoid them.

Here is a list of typical types of scams that people employ. Make yourself familiar with them, and be sure to stay on the lookout. As always, your best protection is using a little common sense - if it sounds too good to be true then it most likely is!

1. Up-front fees to help you find work

Anyone who asks for an up-front fee to help you find work should be avoided like the plague. There is absolutely no reason to pay someone to find you work in Australia. Once you transfer your money, you will very likely never hear from them again.

2. Up-front fees for guaranteed work and accommodation

Some people claim that they have work organised, but you need to transfer money to book accommodation for a week or two in advance. This is also a possible scam.

Once you transfer your money you will either likely never hear from them again or when you arrive you find that conditions are so bad that you wish you had never gone.

It must be noted that there may be some legitimate hostels out there that do this, but you MUST research them first.

3. Group one has been filled, but you can book into group two with a deposit

A typical scam is to post a fake fruit picking job, and when you send an email asking about it they reply with something like "Group one has already been filled, but you can book into group two with a money deposit".

This is a scam... once you transfer your money to "book" into group two you will never get any reply.

4. Offers including free accommodation

Any advertisements that offer free accommodation in a hostel, hotel or motel with a job should be treated with a healthy level of mistrust. Please use your common sense!

It should be noted that a number of farms offer free camping facilities and or free basic accommodation. These offers are generally okay.

5. Offering a guaranteed job and/or guaranteed income

Because weather plays such a big impact on your ability to pick fruit (when it rains you typically cannot pick the fruit) it is impossible to guarantee what income you will make. The same thing applies to offering a guaranteed job. These types of ads typically ask for an up front fee.

6. They only provide a post office box as the contact address

Be very careful of advertisements that only supply a post office box address (no street address) - this is typically a good indication of a potential scam.

7. Incorrect fruits/vegetables and/or incorrect harvest times

Watch out for advertisements that list fruits and vegetables that don't grow in that area, or that are listed for harvest in the wrong time of year. For example, pineapples and bananas only grow in tropical areas and summer fruits are harvested in summer, not winter.

I have a complete list of all the most popular fruit picking locations right across Australia, which lists the most common fruits and vegetables grown in each location, and what time of year they are harvested. Please always double-check the advertisement details to verify its correctness.

8. Don't rely on an ABN / ACN check

If a fruit picking advertisement lists an ABN or ACN (Australian Business or Company Number), you cannot verify that it is legitimate. Scammers have been known to hijack legitimate ABN / ACN numbers.

A valid ABN or ACN number does NOT mean it is not a scam!!!

9. BSB lookups

If you absolutley must transfer money to secure a job (but I highly discourage you from even considering this), you should research the BSB number (a BSB number relates to what bank the Account Number is linked to).

If the BSB search comes up with something like a "Austraila Post Pre-Paid Card", run like crazy, this is a scam! Scammers will use a "Pre-Paid" card to get your money, then never use the card again.

No legitimate company EVER uses a "Pre-Paid" bank card in relation to hiring workers!!!

You can check the BSB number here: Just enter the 6 digit BSB number into the first two fields in the form and click "Search".

10. Using a new website

Scammers often use websites to help them look more legitimate. Most people who see a job advertisement which has a website assume that it must be trustworthy. However, anyone can set up a website very quickly and very cheaply. Scammers often set up new websites to help lure people into their scam.

You can easily check how old a website by using this website: Simply enter the URL of the website into the form and it will tell you when the website was registered.

It must be noted that a new website doesn't automatically mean that the job is a scam, but it is a warning sign that something may not be 100% right.

11. Second Working Holiday Visa documentation for a fee

There are a number companies advertising that they will provide the necessary documentation (for a fee) that you have completed 3 months work in a rural area so you can apply for a 2nd year visa.

This is a scam and if the Department of Immigration finds out that people have obtained this documentation, they will possibly have their visas cancelled and be deported.

12. Department of Immigration telephone scam

The ACCC and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) have been getting reports of scammers claiming to be government officials. The scammers call migrants and temporary visa holders and threaten them with deportation supposedly because of problems with their immigration paperwork or visa status.

Scammers are demanding up-front fees of around $1,000 to resubmit forms. They may try to pressure you by calling repeatedly and harassing you, even threatening to send the police to your house - but if you give your money to a scammer you will never see it again.

You can read more details on the scam on the official Australian ScamWatch website here: Department of Immigration telephone scam.

13. Using common email addresses like "gmail" and "hotmail"

Be on the lookout for contact email addresses that use common hosts like gmail and hotmail. This is especially true for people claiming to be an employment agent. Legitimate employment agents do NOT use email addresses like gmail.

Please note though, some farmers who don't have an official website may use emails like gmail.

Exploitation of workers

Perhaps even more worrying, is reports of bad people exploiting workers. They know that back packers often arrive with very little money.

Once you arrive they will force you to pay for your accommodation. Often the accommodation is very bad and potentially unsafe due to over crowding.

Then the pay levels are really low. Because the back packers didn't have any money when they arrive and have to pay for accommodation in advance, often they can't save enough money to leave, thus entering a vicious cycle.

Other exploitation includes unsafe work conditions, overly long working hours without breaks, demanding passports as a security deposit for your accommodation (thus meaning you can't leave until they decide to give it back to you), trying to charge a fee to sign off on "days worked" for back packers looking to extend their working holiday visa, and just about any other thing they can do to get more money or work out of you.

Unfortunately there isn't much you can do to determine what a farm, farmer, or organisation is like apart from research them online first.

Always do research online before deciding to go somewhere remote to do fruit picking work.

Alleged scams one the Internet

Here is just a small list of alleged potential scams you should be on the look out for. It is my opinion that the following may represent scams because of the experiences of other people.

Have a look over them, and if you see a job advertisement using any of the details listed below, be very careful. Always perform your own online research and use common sense before proceeding with a job advertisement.

As you can see, there is no shortage of alleged scams. I found all of these within 2 minutes. Pretty scary. Always be careful and do thorough research first!

Website addresses: (Sunny Farms), Eastwood Farm (Eastwood Farm), www, (Svandis Valley Farm). Charged money for accommodation, but the fruit picking farms don't exist. You can view more details here and here.

Location: Narrogin, Western Australia. Asking for $200 deposit to secure accommodation. More details here.

Location: Margaret River, Western Australia. Name: Bill. Met the people in Perth and charged money for accommodation and transport to Margaret River. When they went to meet the bus the next morning, it never arrived. More details here.

Website: Charged $200 for accommodation on a farm that doesn't exist. More details here.

Location: Goondiwindi, Queensland. Charging a $150 deposit for accommodation and telling people to go to Goondiwindi. When people arrive (after hours of driving...) there is no farm or job. More details here.

And a few more...

As mentioned, I found all of these in less than 2 minutes. There are plenty of scams out there and people who will exploit you if you are not careful.

Always research a fruit picking job offer before accepting it.

Have you been scammed or found a scam online?

If you have been scammed you should report the crime to your local police office and also get in contact with Fair Work Australia.

As soon as you have received the police report you should contact you insurance company and they should be able to reimburse the loss since you’ve been a victim of crime.

You should also make other people aware of the situation by posting the information on my jobs and work in Australia forum.

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