Dubai: I am a dim-witted moron - a good-for-nothing lousy fellow with a horrendous track record, suggests my CV in big, bold letters. And yet I am flooded with job offers. There are so many companies wanting to solicit my services that I am spoilt for choice.
On September 18, I registered different versions of my inglorious CV with two UAE-based placement agencies - Dubai Gate and Al Aidy Al Mahirah. And voilà, 24 hours later, I was hired.
My employer, who has offered me a Dh18,000 basic salary plus accommodation, Dubai Free Zone visa and a slew of benefits for a sales position in Jebel Ali, doesn't baulk at my credentials. My CV, "forwarded" to him by Dubai Gate, states: "I bring about a steady erosion of values and company ethics... and have hastened the doom of many companies in the past." But he has no qualms. Similarly, the fact that I make "perilous graphics and inconsistent logos" hasn't put off a British company from taking me on board as graphic designer with an equally attractive pay package. "They [the client] are very happy with your CV. Actually we forwarded them seven candidates but out of seven they shortlisted your CV," [sic] I was told by an Al Aidy Al Mahirah staff.
The conversation is on tape with XPRESS.
Welcome to the world of job scams where employment agencies are duping unsuspecting job seekers in the UAE by the minute and, by a conservative estimate, making up to Dh25,000 per day.
Last fortnight, I randomly approached two placement agencies as a job aspirant after responding to situations vacant advertisements in a newspaper's classified section. As part of the sting operation, I made sure I had the worst CV in the city.
My first stop was Dubai Gate Management Consultancy & Employment Services, operating from apartment No 210 in Sharjah's Al Mawarid Tower Offices which also houses a popular supermarket.
After waiting at the reception for a few minutes, I was directed to a room where several young Asian women in abayas sat behind rows of desks. There were around five cellphones on each table. On the desk where I was asked to register my papers, I saw eight cellphones and a landline. The phones rang incessantly.
Shabana, the lady manning the desk, went through my CV and smiled appreciatively. "Nice, very nice. We will land you a good job with Dh15,000-Dh16,000 salary, but you have to first pay Dh300 as urgent registration fee," she said.
"But doesn't your advertisement clearly say there will be no charge from the candidate?" I protested.
"It does, but if you don't hear from us by tomorrow, you can get a full refund," she replied, fishing out a company business card and writing "Paid Dh300" on it along with a reference number. "Consider the job as confirmed, wait for our call tomorrow," she added as I stepped out.
After walking out of Dubai Gate, I headed to Al Aidy Al Mahirah Employment & Management Consult Services who had advertised for the post of a sales executive. "We're conducting walk-in-interviews right now so you better hurry," they told me over the phone as I drove down to their office in apartment No 301, Dubai Islamic Bank building on Sharjah's King Abdul Aziz Road. Here, I was ushered into a room with a similar set-up as in Dubai Gate - several Asian women and lots of cellphones.
A woman who identified herself as Bushra went through my outrageous CV without so much as batting an eyelid.
"Impressive, you're just the kind of candidate our client is looking for," she said, nodding approvingly before asking me to pay Dh100 as registration fee. "You will get an interview call by tomorrow," she promised.
I played along and handed her the money just as countless others have in the past.
Dentist S. Agarwal gave Dubai Gate Dh400 for a job with Royal Hospital, which never had a vacancy in the first place; Aishwarya paid Al Aidy Dh400 for a non-existent Emaar opening; Fatima Ali paid Dubai Gate Dh500 for a customer service job, as did Ruchil Maknava for a position in the finance sector. The list is endless. None of these people heard from these agencies again. Phone calls went unanswered and efforts to contact the representatives of these agencies in person were rebuffed - in some cases with grave threats.
Just as I was promised, the following day I was called by both Dubai Gate and Al Aidy, informing me that I had been selected for the job and that I should come along with a copy of my passport, four pictures and deposit Dh500 as processing fee.
Show me the money
I went to Dubai Gate and was escorted into the cabin of Rana who introduced himself as the company's HR Manager. After pleasantries, Rana said: "Congratulations, you've been hired by a British company. Your appointment letter will be ready soon. You'll be getting Dh18,000 salary plus family accommodation, travel allowance and even a BlackBerry. Have you brought the processing fee?" he enquired. When I asked him how a dumbed down CV like mine was considered, he lost his cool. As did his boss of Middle Eastern origin who arrived at the scene following the commotion. Perturbed at my persistent questioning about fraud recruitments, they asked me to get out.
Outside their office I met Vijay Kumar 35, Zarina, 27, Ryan, 30, and Mini 35, all of whom alleged they had been conned by Dubai Gate.
Around 7pm the same day, Imran from Al Aidy Al Mahirah called me saying there was "some confirmation related to my job" and I should come to their office to negotiate the salary with the employer.
"Have they seen my CV?" I asked.
"Yes... and they are very happy with it. Actually we forwarded them seven candidates but out of seven they shortlisted your CV," Imran told me.
The following day, I rang up Sami Makaram, believed to be the owner of Al Aidy Al Mahirah. I asked him the same questions I asked at Dubai Gate, but instead received a barrage of abuse and threats of physical assault.
At the Buhairah Police Station, a senior policeman said: "Not a day passes when somebody doesn't come up with a complaint about recruitment frauds."
He's not exaggerating. XPRESS met with three victims who have contacted Buhairah Police in this regard recently.
String of complaints
Aishwarya lodged a complaint with them on September 17, Hamid Raza on September 19 and Akbar Pirani on September 21.
They were all told to file a case at the Sharjah court.
"We cannot do anything as this is not a criminal case," a Sharjah policeman said on condition of anonymity.
According to the Ministry of Labour, it's illegal for recruitment firms to charge candidates a fee. Yet the racket continues unabated.
And because action has rarely been taken against the cheating recruiters, their numbers have increased in a frighteningly grotesque proportion. XPRESS investigations reveal that there are at least five such agencies in Sharjah, two in Dubai and one in Ajman.
An insider who works for one such agency said that it is just one family that runs many of these companies. "We are given a minimum target of Dh25,000 each day," he said.
It appears that the economic downturn and subsequent job cuts have come as a windfall for these unscrupulous firms.
Not surprisingly, internet forums are full of complaints by victims of recruitment scams in the country. One website, www.complaintsboard.com, lists scores of comments from people who claim they have been duped by Dubai Gate, Al Aidy, Foreigners Employment, New Future, Waseela and a few others.
I did not register with Foreigners, New Future and Waseela but made enquiries for some ridiculous job positions.
At Foreigners Employment Management & Consultancy near Buhairah Corniche my query for a position of Hotel Manager cum Outdoor Salesman was met with an affirmative response from Valerie. At New Future in Al Ghusais, Samantha confirmed she had an opening for Dentist cum Accountant.
And at Waseela near Sharjah City Centre, I asked Asma: "I am a qualified elephant trainer from Ching Pong institute in Thailand, but since there are no elephants in the UAE could you help me get a job as an elephant trainer abroad?
Asma's response was quick: "My dear.. if you want me to send you to our company's branch office outside the UAE then you have to make a visa payment of Dh300. We do have our company branch in Canada. We have a whole veterinary hospital there and institute... including zoo... there we have more than 300-400 elephants... and not just elephants but other animals also... we have many trainers but we are looking for more trainers. If you pay us Dh300 we can send you to Canada within 15 to 20 days and also give you a one-way ticket." Asma's jumbo offer is also on tape with XPRESS.
Be wary of employment agencies which ask for money to register your CV. In all probability, they will dupe you. According to the Ministry of Labour, it’s illegal for recruitment firms to charge candidates a fee.
Report such companies to 800-665