Authorities tackle vineyard scam

BACKPACKERS coming to Margaret River are being warned about a scam which has seen at least two travellers lose hundreds of dollars through a website for a fake vineyard.

Consumer Protection is in the process of closing down the website www.rossovineyard.com.au which was set up using an ABN from a legitimate business registered in Canning Vale.

The victims claim to have transferred $200 each to a bank account in Victoria after they responded to an advertisement on the classifieds website Gumtree.

Backpackers were reportedly directed to an address in suburban Margaret River after paying the money, expecting to arrive at a rural vineyard property with on-site accommodation.

However, over the last two weeks backpackers have arrived from as far away as Perth at the home of a man with no involvement.

The man, who asked not be named, said he had several car loads of travellers pull up outside his home searching for the non-existent vineyard.

“A German couple actually arrived on Sunday and said they had paid $400 for accommodation and that there were two other couples coming down from Perth who had done the same,” he said.

“They were really upset; obviously expecting to arrive at a farm where they can stay... they had paid the last of their money for it.”

Margaret River Wine Association CEO Nick Power said he had been aware of the scam for a little over a week, and had involved Consumer Protection.

“It’s obviously not something we want for the people who are helping our industry,” Mr Power said.

Mr Power said the association had circulated information to its members and warned travellers to exercise caution.

Margaret River Police Senior Constable Albe Reinecke said they were unable to press charges until someone affected made an official complaint.

“We’re calling for anyone involved to come forward... but until then we are just trying to educate people.

Consumer Protection commission Anne Driscoll warned travellers about the dangers of being scammed while trying to secure employment and accommodation in Australia.

“Job-seekers responding to advertisements should carry out research into any job offer and independently verify if the proposed place of employment is legitimate. Contacting the local Council or an industry association can confirm if the offer is genuine.

Consumers can check on the Consumer Protection website:  www.commerce.wa.gov.au/consumerprotection to verify that the employment agent they are dealing with is licensed. 

Further information and advice on scams can be found on the WA ScamNet website www.scamnet.wa.gov.au.

Enquiries or scam reports can be made by email wascamnet@commerce.wa.gov.au or by phone 1300 30 40 54.

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