Preying on the desperation of a nation facing up to 90% unemployment, scam artists have turned their attention to employment websites and digital payment methods to rip off hopeful job seekers. Sadly, in this terrible economy, people have a tendency to grab onto any glimmer of hope, making them more vulnerable than ever.
Job seekers must take note of some red flags that indicate a job offer to be a scam.
Last month I applied for a job on a well-known website that aggregates job offers from around the country, and even abroad. It was not even 24 hours before the advertiser had gotten in touch with me via SMS. I was told to check my email and comply with the message I had received urgently.
In my inbox was their offer. The job was mine! Just like that! But, and there will always be a ‘but’, I needed to send them $35 for courier services so that they could send me employment and registration documents. There was at least a contact number for someone called Madam Agnes Pritchard. A call to the number was answered by a man who said that Pritchard was in a conference and would call me back later. Nobody did, but I did get a message threatening me that I would lose the job if I didn’t send the money. I asked if I could drop it off at their offices, and was told, firmly, “no”.
I got hold of the website owners who posted the job. They didn’t want to be named, but did agree to comment.
“You are clever . . . Don’t pay them they are thieves. We just advertise jobs that are given to us and sometimes some of the advertisers lie to us,” he to me.
So how do we spot the lies? Here are some guidelines, though, as people become more savvy, they will become more sophisticated:
Messages and emails from legitimate businesses will normally be well written in formal language, without slang and punctuation and spelling errors. Also, there will be various contact information included.
Scammers will use free email services that cannot be traced back to them, such as Gmail and Yahoo. Legitimate companies will 99% of the time have their own email service. They might tell you their server is down or something, but that’s unlikely. Look for email@example.com addresses as a sign of authenticity. Whatsapp and SMS might also play a role, but will usually revert back to Telecel or NetOne lines, so that a simple Ecocash transaction does not reveal their names.
This is very telling. Hiring new staff is a serious decision for any business to make and it will never happen overnight. It’s not like winning the lottery. You might be the best employee ever, but regardless, any real company will take time out to properly assess you as a candidate. As such, don’t believe any ultimatums like “If you don’t accept today, we will give the job to someone else!” Like a hunter’s dog, they are using fear to chase you into their trap. Any rude or aggressive behaviour is a sure sign you are dealing with a thief, not a company.
If you get an unsolicited job offer from a total stranger, you are 100% dealing with a scam. Don’t waste your time investigating.
No scammer will have offices. They’ll offer 101 lies such as being based in Bulawayo or overseas even. But please, never agree to anything without having a prior face to face meeting in a safe environment, or at a legitimate, well-marked office.
No serious employer, will ask you to pay for courier, printing, registration fees etc. Figures in these scams are often temptingly low — $10-$30, but if you send the money, you can kiss it goodbye.
Trust your instincts! If it seems too good to be true, then I’m sorry, but it’s a scam. No way round it. The more desperate people become, the more vulnerable they are. No matter how badly you need a job, remember, there are other desperate people out there waiting to rob you of your last dollar.
Email your experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org.