Thu, Oct 04, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Parents warned about fee scams

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Lin Yi-hua (林奕華) yesterday warned of the dangers of fraudulent services that target parents planning to send their children to study overseas, and urged Taipei City's police department to clamp down on such practices.

Lin was accompanied by a mother, surnamed Wu, who told a press conference that she had lost NT$5 million (US$150,000) to such a scam.

Wu said she sought advice on studying abroad from the counseling service of a private language school last year as she was planning to send her daughter and son to attend high school and college in Australia. It was only later, however, that she realized that the fees she had paid had been stolen.

The NT$5 million included NT$500,000 for a financial statement and another NT$500,000 for tuition fees, counseling and other related fees that were wired to Victoria Language School manager Wu Chia-hui's (吳珈慧) account, she said.

"I trusted her, and I wanted to send my kids over there as soon as possible. It's partly my fault that I didn't realize it was a scam," she said yesterday at Taipei City Council.

"This kind of scam preys on people's lack of understanding about the application process. While people should be careful, the city government should also enforce quality control of these companies," Lin said.

Wu said Wu Chia-hui asked her to pay application fees for two high schools of about NT$400,000, but later applied for another school for her son, which gave a 40 percent commission fee to the manager.

After her son and daughter began attending school, Wu Chia-hui continued to demand payment of a number of fees, and it wasn't until May that she found out that none of the money had gone to her children's school.

During a visit to Australia in July, Wu contacted the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Melbourne for assistance, and the office confirmed that the schools had never asked for money for finance statements and other related fees.

Lin said Wu Chia-hui and her husband Chiu Hsin-an (邱新恩) had used different names to sign contracts with clients, and had not registered their schools with the Ministry of Education.

In response, Taipei City's Department of Education reminded the public that the counseling service fee for foreign school applications averages between NT$7,000 and NT$20,000, and the service usually does not include payment of application fees for clients.

The ministry is conducting evaluations on studying abroad counseling services and language schools, and will publish the outcome next month as a reference for the public, the department said.

Taipei City's Police Department said the Victoria Language School's behavior was illegal and that the department would seek to bring the manager to justice.

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