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100 students lose money in million-dollar scam by study abroad agent

Aspiring international students have lost thousands of dollars to Tu Futuro en Australia, a Brisbane-based agency
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   20-01-2017
Image by Jon Rawlinson, used under CC license

Savita Azevedo had barely settled into her new life in Australia when things started to fall apart. The 31-year-old from Brazil had coughed up nearly $8,000 for an English course, accommodation, and medical coverage. But within a couple of weeks, she was horrified to learn that her landlord and other providers had not been paid by Tu Futuro en Australia, the agency that had taken her money.

An ABC News report quoted Savita as saying she was embarrassed, and did not know where she was going to live. “I sent an email but I don’t have answers, I called the phones, but no answers,” she was quoted as saying.

The report also cited the story of Gabrielle Pinha, a 23-year-old English teacher, also from Brazil, who paid Tu Futuro $4,000 for a college course last year. But the college was never paid, and the agents who operated Tu Futuro had vanished, the report said.

According to ABC News, industry sources estimated that around 100 South Americans have lost between $500,000 and $1 million dealing with Tu Futuro. The report adds that the Overseas Students Ombudsman in Australia has received more than 40 complaints involving the agency, and is working with government agencies to ensure that the students get whatever assistance is possible. Brazil’s consul in Brisbane has called for an investigation and compensation for the victims, according to the news report.

The report quoted Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, as saying that colleges have insurance but it does not cover victims overseas, and such cases have to be taken up with local authorities in different countries.

Honeywood was quoted as saying Australia’s $20-billion international education industry enrolls half a million foreign students each year, and every year there are problems with two or three agents.

The report quoted Australian education minister Simon Birmingham as saying that this was a rare example of alleged fraud. He also said that, starting this year, education providers who charge money and take international students would be “required and expected to sign on to Australia’s world leading code of ethics”.

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