With the proliferation of online job sites, platforms and search engines, it is now so much easier for con artists to pose as recruiters. These con artists have used legal platforms in the region to advertise and prey on unsuspecting, even intelligent jobseekers. Image Credit: Supplied

After having searched fruitlessly for a new job opportunity, Kenneth’s hopes went up when he received a long-distance call from “one of the largest” recruitment firms based in the United States.

The person on the other line, who introduced himself as Alex, confirmed they had received his application and that the job opening for a company based in the UAE is just right for him. He then went on to ask Kenneth about his current job and previous work experience, and later expressed interest in hiring the applicant.

“Our job opening matches your skill set, especially since you have a Master’s degree” the recruiter, with a South Asian accent, told him. Although excited about the prospect, Kenneth immediately corrected the interviewer, saying he does not have any Master’s degree, and that he would still be willing to take on the offer, if given a chance.

Alex put him on hold, supposedly to talk to his manager and came back saying they would still offer him the position as long as Kenneth obtains an MBA certificate from Orlando University.

The recruiter said the short-term course will improve his academic credentials, and since it’s is part of the “Working Adult Scholarship Programme” under President Obama’s administration, Kenneth need not pay anything for the enrolment — except the $499 (Dh1,831) administration and courier fees.

“I was completely clueless about it, until he said that it would take only two weeks to complete the course. Also, at first, he said the course was 110 per cent free, but he later said I had to pay some fees. That’s when I got suspicious,” Kenneth, who doesn’t want his last name revealed, said.

A quick browse in online forums later, Kenneth became more suspicious that he was dealing with a bogus recruiter. It turned out, there were other people who were contacted by the same company and they all claimed it’s a hoax.

Specific certificate

“[The company] is a scam. They offer the best opportunity as a customer service executive but they do not recruit unless you buy a very specific certificate from Orlando University for $499, irrespective of your work experience… Who needs a certificate from a university which has no specific physical presence in the form of an address in Orlando, Florida? Beware,” said one forum participant in his comment posted on Complaintsboard.com.

With the proliferation of online job sites, platforms and search engines, it is now so much easier for con artists to bluff their way past job applicants and pose as recruiters looking to hire new staff. These con artists have used legal platforms in the region to advertise and prey on unsuspecting, even intelligent jobseekers.

“In this economic climate, more people are desperate for work and some people will try and take advantage of this,” noted Andrew McNeilis, chief operating officer of Phaidon International.

“The internet, however, connects more jobseekers with far more genuine opportunities than scams. People should be cautious, but should not let a few rare scams affect their willingness to use the internet to find a job,” McNeilis added.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), a US nonprofit corporation, described how con artists operate and dupe their victims.

“The con artist uses a job ad to lure an unsuspecting jobseeker, or they may use information from a resume they have found online. Such con artists can be quite convincing, and may even steal company names and corporate logos to convince victims that they are legitimate employers,” the organisation said in an advisory note posted on its website.

“After the con artist has won the jobseeker’s trust, the con artist tricks the job seeker into giving up bank account numbers. The reasons given for this can be clever,” PRC added.

Avoiding being scammed

The key to avoid being scammed is to spot the red flags. The following are tips that would tell you that you are dealing with a bogus recruiter or employer:

• As a general rule, be wary when a recruiter starts asking for money. No legitimate company who’s looking to hire staff will ever collect payments from job applicants. “No recruiter or direct employer will ever ask for payment for putting a candidate forward for a job. If you are asked to pay for an interview, alarm bells should ring,” said Andrew McNeilis of Phaidon International.

• Beware of recruiters who request for bank account numbers or scan the ID, such as a driver’s licence, of the applicant to double check their identity. “This is not a legitimate request,” noted Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

• When you receive an email from your recruiter, check if the contact email address is a primary domain. A company calling itself “Omega Inc” with a Yahoo! email address should make you suspicious.

• Review the job ad or letters of correspondence. Usually, con artists commit misspellings and grammatical mistakes.