Internet visa scam strands family

On her 35th birthday, Agne Jogisalu arrived in Perth with her three daughters filled with hope.

Promised a work visa, the kindergarten teacher believed she could build a new life in Australia free from the grinding poverty of her native Estonia.

But a month after arriving, the family found themselves stranded and homeless after being told they were the likely victims of a cruel and elaborate visa scam.

"After I realised it was a fraud, I started panicking," Ms Jogisalu said.

She was surfing the web in Estonia when an advertisement popped up spruiking the benefits of working in Australia.

She filled in details and half an hour later a woman calling herself Laura phoned saying she was with the migration firm Ausfis.

"Laura" told her it would cost 308 euro to arrange a visa for herself and three children - a month's salary," Ms Jogisalu said.

"At that point I never knew anyone who had done it, had applied for a visa, so I had no idea how long it could take," she said.

She paid for the work visa with a loan and got tourist visas for Australia, believing she would get the working visa soon after arriving.

The family flew to Australia via Singapore and stayed in hostels before running out of money and moving to Salvation Army crisis accommodation.

Visitors to are greeted with a slick video of a woman claiming she can cut through red tape and increase the chances of working in Australia.

The site was registered in 2009 through an anonymous Canadian domain service. Its address is listed as a post box in London.

Travel and scam-related online message boards carry many stories of others who say they lost money to Ausfis after the company used hard-sell tactics to get their credit card details.

A man calling himself Eric Smith answered the 1800 contact number on the website.

"Mr Smith" claimed Ausfis offered pre-assessment services to tell people if they were eligible for an Australian visa.

Its "legal team" then handled visa applications if the "pre-assessment" was accepted, he said.

He claimed to be based at the London address but cut the call when told _The West Australian _knew it was just a post box.

Federal Migration Agents Registration Authority chief executive Stephen Wood said Ausfis did not have a registered migration agent in Australia.

He said an internet search would reveal many stories of people who had been scammed.

Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan did not respond to requests for comment.