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Fake job offers: How to avoid getting duped in job scams

If you are looking for a job in India or abroad, you must know how scamsters operate.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 08, 2019, 06.56 PM IST
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Watch out for fake job offers: How to stay away from such scams
Watch out for fake job offers: How to stay away from such scams
In January this year, Ajay Kolla, CEO of an award-winning recruitment firm, Wisdom Jobs, was arrested with 13 staffers. The well-established firm, operating since 2009, had duped 1.04 lakh people out of nearly Rs 70 crore by promising fake jobs in India and abroad. In September 2018, seven people were held in Delhi for defrauding 20 jobless youth of Rs 2 crore, by collecting Rs 2 lakh each in lieu of fake jobs in the ONGC.

These cases are the tip of the iceberg in a country that has seen unemployment spiral in the past few years. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, India’s unemployment rate in April 2019 shot up to 7.6%, the highest since October 2016. Combined with easy accessibility of the Internet, this has come as a boon for job scammers, who are offering non-existent jobs to desperate youth. “Students fresh out of college, from one of the thousands of engineering colleges in small towns, are easily trapped. Their parents have invested Rs 4-5 lakh and now want the kids to earn big money. Foreign jobs, especially in the Gulf, are coveted,” says Bilal Hasan, Head of Sales, Quetzal & Head Honchos.

Little wonder then that embassies, companies and job portals have started putting up advisories on their websites to warn the applicants. On 28 April, the Indian embassy in Qatar tweeted: ‘Please do not trust any recruiting agent who promises you a job in Qatar on a business/visit visa. Always ask for a copy of the agent’s Qatar ID.’ Groups such as Tata Consultancy Services, Shell and Monster.com have also put up warnings on their sites. If you are also looking for jobs, here’s how to avoid being duped by scamsters.

Modus operandi: Steps
For most scamsters, online job portals are a popular haunt to find prey. Here’s how they proceed:
1. Applicant profiles accessed from job recruitment sites.
2. Mass mailers sent to potential candidates.
3. Fraudsters pose as job consultants, set up fake websites, temporary ‘offices’.
4. Candidates are asked to deposit registration fees via wallet or bank transfers.
5. Online or telephonic interviews are conducted.
6. Fake appointment letters are offered.

Victim profile
These are the type of people who are most likely to fall prey to job scams:
  • Mostly from tier 2 or tier 3 cities
  • Graduate from lesser known colleges or institutes
  • Poor interpersonal communication skills
  • 0-5 year work experience
  • In their early to mid-20s
  • Not good at written or spoken English
  • Not very skilled at their jobs; low professional expertise
  • Have applied on job portal

Modus Operandi: Approaches

Scammers adopt different approaches to find and nail their prey.

Phishing & mailing: This is probably the easiest way for racketeers to find victims en masse (see Modus Operandi: Steps). “By posing as freelance job consultants, they scour multiple job portals like Monster, Naukri, TimesJobs and Shine to get access to their databases,” says Hasan. They then send mass mailers and, even if they dupe 5% of job-seekers, they make a lot of money. The mails typically ask for a security deposit, interview fee or other charges, a prerequisite for scheduling an interview. While some fraudsters disappear as soon as they get the money, others go so far as to conduct a quick online or telephonic interview before allotting a fake appointment letter.

Fake websites: Duplicate websites of reputed companies, job portals or government departments are created to mislead applicants. “They then post fake jobs, conduct tests and upload results, before charging the successful candidates for clearing the interview,” says Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice-President, TeamLease Services. Some even go so far as to set up temporary offices, hiring staffers, conducting interviews, allotting appointment letters and charging fees in instalments.

Campus placements: Scammers pose as job consultants and directly contact the chairmen of colleges or institutes in small towns. They promise placements in top and reputed firms, and charge a lump sum. They mostly vanish before conducting the promised interviews.

Hall of Infamy: Hiring scams
1. Wisdom jobs
In January 2019, Ajay Kolla, CEO of Wisdom Jobs, in Hyderabad, was held for cheating 1.04 lakh applicants.
Amount: Rs 70 crore

2. Ghaziabad scam
In June 2018, three men were arrested from Kavi Nagar in Ghaziabad for cheating hundreds of job seekers over two years.
Amount: Rs 3.5 crore

3. Hyderabad scam
In June 2018, three men were held in Hyderabad for extracting Rs 2 lakh each from 60 unemployed youth in three months.
Amount: Rs 1.2 crore

Avoid being duped
Here is the checklist you should follow to foolproof your job selection process.

Go to authentic, official websites: Most companies advertise new job positions on their official websites. So, instead of replying to dubious mails, go to the career page of the company and apply directly on the site. “In case of online job portals, make sure you are routing your resumes via the original sites, not responding to a link provided in a mail. “For foreign jobs, you should either go to government portals, or local job consultant websites in the country you are applying for a job,” says Hasan. Do not approach ‘agents’ in India to secure a foreign job posting.

Post CVs with specific job positions: While posting your resume on job portals, make sure that the CV is written for the specific post you want. “Prepare the CV and cover letter so that they match the jobs you’re applying for and list only the relevant, recent job experiences,” says Sharma of TeamLease Services. Also, any mail you get in response should offer you the particular post you have applied for. Vague, generic designations are an indication of a fake offer.

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Never pay for securing a job: “No employer seeks any fee from a job-seeker at any stage of the hiring process,” says Abhijeet Mukherjee, CEO, Monster.com (APAC & Gulf). “So beware of companies or individuals, who are seeking fees or charges for security deposit, registration or document verification,” adds Mukherjee. This can be through bank instruments or cash in an individual’s name, or through a wire transfer. Also stay away from offers that seek sensitive information like details about credit card or bank account, online banking passwords, etc.

Look for red flags in mail/letter: A good exercise to ward off scamsters who approach you through mails is to scan the letter minutely (see Red Flags). “Beware if the mail is from a free e-mail address, not the company e-mail,” says Mukherjee. Also check for the format of the letter, spelling mistakes, poor syntax or wrong spacing. Another indicator is the name and sign of the person sending you the mail, as well as the company address and contact details.

Validate mail by calling firms: If you have any doubts about the offer or appointment letter, call up the company on its registered landline number. Check if the person who has mailed you exists, and if the firm has a vacancy for the post or job you have applied for. “Talk to someone in the company and find out if the skills and qualification they need match yours,” says Sharma. Conduct proper research about the company before applying for the job.

Be cautious about jobs that seem too good to be true: If you are being offered a 70-80% increment, or a remuneration that is not in line with the market trends, or with your rank and experience, it is most definitely a fake job. “Another indicator is that you are being handed an offer letter without a formal interview,” says Mukherjee. Ensure that you are called for a personal, face-to-face interview, preferably at the registered company address. If you are called to a residential area or a room without any company signage, be on the alert. The antecedents of the interviewers should also be easily verifiable.
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