By Ram Khatry, Sydney
18 October 2016
A Melbourne-based fraudster, who trawls Gumtree hunting for gullible and inexperienced international students from Nepal and India, is leaving them utterly heart-broken and cashless as they are robbed of whatever little funds they arrived in Australia with.
One of his victims said he has been unable to rest up and sleep since he lost his $500. That’s almost fifty percent of the total funds the jobless young man had in his account, he said.
The earliest victim southasia.com.au has traced claims to have lost an unbelievable $2900 in October last year. She even met him once.
The latest fraud by the man took place as recently as last Wednesday.
All victims belive it was the same man that tricked them into making payments through cardless cash feature of Commonwealth Bank. All victims were approached after they posted their Gumtree advertisements, often within minutes of posting.
The exact number of students, mainly from Nepal, the man has robbed is not known but it is understood there are plenty. On Thursday alone, southasia.com.au was in direct contact with at least eight victims who in turn knew other friends that were similarly duped by the man who goes by multiple names – Harry, Jatinder and Mandy to name the most commonly used.
Harry is also known to have taken money from young Indian students but Nepalese appear to be his favourite “target group”.
Victims also confirmed that they were all spoken to in Hindi.
Harry has become so fearless in his act of conning freshly-arrived international students in Melbourne that he does not even bother changing his phone number any more. When his number ending with 707 was called on Thursday evening, it was still switched on and rang out. He has used the same phone number for months now. Sometimes more than one from the same group of friends have have received calls from him.
Manoj (name changed) arrived in Melbourne only a month ago. Desperate for a decent job, he resorted to Gumtree and posted an advertisement (offering himself as a candidate) on November 13. “He called me within 30 minutes of posting that ad,” he exclaimed in a telephone conversation with southasia.com.au.
What followed was the standard modus operandi of the crook.
Harry told Manoj that he had the right job for him, a job that would start immediately. The pay was quoted as in mid-20s per hour which made the 20 year old Nepalese student very excited because his friends were toiling away just for $14. However, Harry told him, something needed to be done before he could start the job – he needed a food handling certificate. But the role was so urgent that Manoj would not have time to go for a formal course to get the certificate, he warned. He also told Manoj that he did not need to worry because “he had friends in the department” who would get him the food handling certificate straightaway.
The desperate student then did something which is beyond the comprehension of an everyday Australian. Harry was so good at his job that he made Manoj use the cardless cash feature – a feature he did not know anything about until last Sunday.
Manoj, under the guidance of none other than the master fraudster himself, sent three cardless payments of $130, $200 and $170.
In a group chat with the victims, southasia.com.au could see that it was an established pattern of operation Harry constantly used – with complete success each time. Most victims were called by him within minutes of posting Gumtree advertisements. He would offer them job, then he would convince them (sometimes talked to their partners even) about the urgency of obtaining some sort of certificate (food handling, RSA etc) on an urgent basis and then he would trick them into sending those cardless payments.
All his victims were totally fresh in Australia and hence they didn’t stand a chance against the well-practiced Jatinder who would swear in the name of his dad when and if his prospects expressed doubts about the payments he asked for.
First payment would be of around $120 or $130. Then he would tell them that the payment did not come through and that they should try $200 (or thereabouts) upon which he would make another excuse and ask them to send the third amount. He would always find a convincing reason. Perplexed and at the same time afraid of losing the golden opportunity of getting a handsomely-salaried job, the young students would give in and make payments after payments. One of the victims said Harry is so good that he can make anyone friends within seconds. “When you are talking to him, he makes you feel so good,” the female victim said.
Ganesh (name changed), who arrived only last Sunday, lost $500 already. Harry called him and told him that his friend’s restaurant in downtown Melbourne required a man immediately and that he needed black pants, black shoes and black T-Shirts. In retrospect, Ganesh now knows that Harry was only trying to build trust. He also made three different payments totalling $500. Ganesh too did not know what sort of bird “cardless cash” was but thanks to Harry, he is now well-trained in the handy CommBank feature.
An out and out professional
A quick surf through the website of Commonwealth Bank revealed why Harry cum Mandy cum Jatinder always tricked the young victim into making payments that invariably totalled into $500.
“The daily withdrawal limit for Cardless Cash is $500. There is no limit on the number of transactions per day provided the total amount withdrawn that day does not exceed $500 or your NetBank transfer limit,” says Comm Bank.
Victoria Police is in the know
At least two of the victims have already approached Victoria Police about the incidents.
More victims are expected to file complaints with the authorities in the days to come as victims remain traumatised at the loss of the little money their parents managed to save up for them. “Who would have thought this would happen to me in Australia?” said one of the young victims who said he still does not have a job but lost the five hundred dollars already.
A female victim told southasia.com.au that she was trying to forget the episode as accepted it as a bad episode of her life. However, after having learnt that the man is still stealing money from other people after all these months without being caught, she now has lost her peace of mind and keeps thinking about him. “I do not know what I will do if I meet him,” the infuriated young woman said.