|VFCD - Fraudulent?|
The following article was written by Lorraine Elletson, and does not directly reflect the standpoint of VolunteeringInfo. After being contacted by Lorraine we searched for further information on VFCD but failed to find much of interest, as most of the online postings found were posted by VFCD officials. We have contacted Trinh Son and asked for an explanation of the events detailed below, but 12 days later we are yet to hear back. The decision was made to temporarily suspend VFCDs VolunteeringInfo listing until the matter has been cleared up. If you have any information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
In early October last year, I went to Vietnam hoping to work as a volunteer for VFCD. I sent 450 US dollars in advance as payment for 1 month. Before leaving Spain, I wrote to the director Trinh Son and asked him about the visa situation- whether or not a 3 month visa was possible. I also told him that I did not wish to be placed in any assignment until after my arrival. On his website, he had mentioned working with women and fair trade. That is what I was interested in doing- not in teaching. I never made any contract with him.
After arriving, I was put up in a hotel for 3 nights- the last night of which I paid myself. After that, I was taken to the volunteer house where I spent 2 nights. I, therefore, spent 4 nights at VFCD’s expense.
At the volunteer house, I met a Canadian-Chinese girl Catherine and Sabrina Syben- a German girl who was supposed to work as an intern for UNESCO. (VFCD uses the logo of UNESCO on his websites and sets up fake websites to attract volunteers. He also uses the information from application forms to add names to his sites). Sabrina told me about how she had been badly treated by Son in Sapa- north Vietnam- and had lost a lot of money which he refused to pay back. In addition, she had had to pay for her food and accommodation (both of which were supposed to be included). I then realized that I did not want to work for VFCD and wrote to Son explaining this and asking for my money back minus the 4 nights and moved out of the volunteer house with the above-mentioned 2 girls.
Son then wrote back saying that I should feel guilty, that I had broken a 3 month contract with him and that he had rented the volunteer house just for me. He then asked me to pay him 2 months more- 900 US dollars more. I then understood that I was dealing with a very dishonest man and that the only way of dealing with this would be to report him to the UNESCO office as suggested by the Chinese-Canadian girl.
I then went twice to the UNESCO office and spoke to Mr Thang and to his intern Van. Mr Thang said that he would try to help and requested my bank details in case Son paid me back what he owed. He also said that he doubted that the Vietnamese police could help because I had no contract. I kept writing to UNESCO but rarely got a reply. When I did, they said they were still working on the case.
In the meantime, I started to write to various websites to report my experience in an effort to save other volunteers from having to have such an experience. I also learned of many people who had also been cheated by Son.
Before leaving Hanoi, I asked a Vietnamese friend to telephone Son and to tell him that I would telephone the police if he did not pay me back my money. He then told this friend that he did not mind this since the police were on his side and they could force me to pay him 2 months´ more. He has said the same thing to other volunteers who have threatened to call the police.
I am very sad about all of this and also sad that this man is cheating so many people and ruining the reputation of UNESCO and creating a very negative image of Vietnam as a very corrupt country.
Lorraine Joan Elletson
Lorraine has been in contact with several other people who claim to have been victims of this reported scam, and has provided us with a list of 11 people and how much money they report to have lost to VFCD. As we have not been in direct contact with said people, we will not publish their names, but can reveal an average loss of $5363 USD, with the highest reported loss being €1600 or roughly $2200. The average of the remaining 10 victims was $315.