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Byron Shire
February 28, 2024

Scammers targeting Neighbourhood Centre users

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Mullumbimby & District Neighbourhood Centre. Photo supplied
Mullumbimby & District Neighbourhood Centre. Photo supplied

At least two men have been loitering around the Mullumbimby & District Neighbourhood Centre (MDNC) touting a dodgy online course they claim will ‘help people get a qualification and improve their standard of living,’ according to centre manager Julie Williams.

Ms Williams has contacted Echonetdaily to implore people not to take up the shonky offer.

‘It appears they have identified the MDNC as an opportunity and commenced their sales pitch on MDNC property,’ Ms Williams said.

‘Free’ laptop

‘These guys aim to get people signed up to a course, assuring them that the costs are covered through the commonwealth government’s VET FEE-HELP assistance scheme, and offering a free laptop computer.

‘The offer of a laptop was vehemently denied after I challenged them, however I know exactly what I heard when one of the MDNC volunteers was approached,’ Ms Williams told Echonetdaily.

‘When challenged these guys were aggressive and obnoxious, one threatened to continue to “help” people on the footpath to avoid being on Neighbourhood Centre property They were indignant that that we would not be supportive of their “helping” and endorse their presence.

‘They simply did not get it that by preying on the vulnerable on MDNC property there was an implication that we were endorsing them. They have never sought approval or permission.’

Ms Williams said that what the men were offering sounded very similar to offers currently being investigated by Fair Trading.

‘These online courses do not provide support and are often not appropriate for people who are struggling with literacy, mild disability, or simply have not had a lot of experience navigating the world of formal education. The offer of a free laptop is understandably enticing.’

Ms Williams added that there are education and training opportunities that can be accessed through a range of credible organizations for no little or no cost, that are provided in supportive environments.

‘These guys are deliberately targeting people who are vulnerable and who most likely will be left with more unaffordable expense and a growing debt,’ she said.

If any one has signed up to one of these courses, Ms Wiliams said there is a 10-day cooling-off period during which you can withdraw at no cost.

Contact Fair Trading for information on 133220 or go into the Neighbourhood Centre at 55 Dalley Street, Mullumbimby, which has offered to provide support through the process.

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  1. Ms Williams, the men you were referring to, do in actual fact, work for a credible organisation which is registered as a training provider by the Government regulator, and are NOT being investigated by Dept of Fair Trading as has been implied by you.
    These courses are not “scams” nor are they “dodgy” or “shonky”, they are legitimate and yes, they are designed to “help people get a qualification & improve their standard of living”. Perhaps, if you had of talked to these men instead of “challenging” them, you may have realised that some of your customers could possibly have benefitted from the information being offered to them. I would presume, not all of the people who attend your centre are “vulnerable” nor “illiterate”. These guys are reaching out into our communities to show people who may not be aware, due to their limited resources, what is available to them should they wish to improve their skills.
    The costs for these courses are covered under the governments VET FEE HELP scheme for those who are not financial enough to pay their own costs. The student does not have to pay anything back to the government until they are employed AND earning $54,126.00 per annum. Incidentally, there is NO interest charged to the student which means, contrary to what you have stated, the debt does not grow.
    Ms Williams these guys are not “deliberately targeting people who are vulnerable”. The information they are offering is available to anyone from any walk of life.
    With all due respect, as you mentioned, the men were on MDNC property, perhaps you could have taken them aside to find out what they were on about before being judgemental and critical. You could have approached the situation with a little more consideration of the fact that this could have been a good thing and an opportunity for your customers to find out first hand what could be available to them to improve their skills with a view to future employment.


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