Jun 112013

After noticing plainly fraudulent postings for Chef / Cook / Food and Beverage positions placed as comments on LinkedIn last week I wrote a short piece on the best way to recognize fraudulent job offers and employment scams.

Judging from responses to the blog, international employment fraud is both more wide spread and more sophisticated than I had imagined. The alumni manager for one of this country’s major cooking schools reported scams reaching into the school’s graduate pool. One LinkedIn group member reported the following scam launched from a legitimate web site offering a position in a luxury hotel in Kuala Lumpur. While it is possible that someone within the hotel was able to perpetrate the fraud, it is more likely that highly skilled con artists were able to pose successfully as the hotel’s GM and Director of HR.

This report indicates the level of sophistication in some international employment scams aimed at high end applicants.  The harm to the candidate was considerable. He is considering action against the Hotel, for which he probably needs to await the findings of the local police.

In addition to the notes I added in italics to the reports, there are a few things candidates for overseas employment can and probably should do to protect themselves. For one thing initiate telephone contact with someone at the hotel to confirm the position before taking any drastic steps – that means calling the number on the hotel web site when the job offer is made and asking for confirmation of that offer.  Do not Skype or use a number or address offered by the person you are dealing with, and do not rely on that person to call you. Use only the Hotel main number and ask for the person in Human Resources.  Do not conduct your business over the contact’s mobile phone. (This is an old trick I use for checking references with occasionally surprising and amusing results.)

It is, furthermore, highly irregular for an employer to ask a candidate or employee to advance money. In fact, that is a fairly sure sign of fraud.  If an advance is requested, do as suggested above and call the employer (again – find the address on the Internet – do not use a number provided by the contact) and confirm the offer.

One other thing you can do is check the contact’s email for the originating IP Address. You will find it in the header. In Outlook check on File and then Info then Properties. In the box which opens look for something like Received: from mail-blah blah blah.com []) . Take the number and put it in the search bar of your browser. The search results will give you the location of the server from which the message originated . This is not a certain solution (the mail from which I copied was sent from Jordon using a Google server in California) but if you are applying for a position in Tokyo and the server proves to be in Istanbul or St Petersburg, you are warned.  As stated in the previous post, the mail should come from a hotel or property address – someone@swankysuites.com rather than swankysuites@yahoo.com . Luxury properties can afford their own URL’s and require that all correspondence use them.

Thank you for your reply! the scam unfolded in several steps

1. Ad on Hcareers.com to which I applied- mid August 2012 (Note: HCareers is not responsible for these events. The fact that the perpetrators used a highly respected location for the scam is an indication of the level of sophistication and possibly success in the operation.)

2. Application sent by HR Director of hotel saying I had been shortlisted along with a request for all certifications. (Note: I suspect this was someone posing as the HR Director, not the HR Director. )

3. Interview over telephone with HR and then with GM- lasted over 30 minutes (Again: My suspicion is that the call was initiated by someone posing as the HR Director and the GM.)

4. Three days later a letter of intent on [the hotel’s] letter head with the right phone numbers

5. Letter clearly stated position salary and benefits, the later asked for 50% payment for work permit, 50% for air ticket for self and spouse and 50% immigration documents All of which would be refunded by [the hotel] once I arrived and joined, the reason I was given that the hotel in the past had spent a lot money to get candidates who never showed up due to any number of reasons ie counter offer etc. Note: In reality this would never happen. The candidate is either sent a ticket or asked to buy his own ticket and will be reimbursed on arrival.

6. I was to pay the money in stages which I did

7. I even had my wife fly out to KL with the offer letter and see a local attorney, who said it all looked fine and was a good contract, my wife also found out through friends in KL that HR director mentioned on the offer was indeed the actual HR Director. (Note: Except this was probably not the person the candidate spoke with)

8. I made the final payment and received a work permit on official Malaysian Government Papers duly signed by the Labor Department (These, too, where certainly forgeries – taking the time to confirm the visa via a local consulate would be a good idea.)

9. At this stage I was still unaware that it was a fraud and a scam.

10. I received a Qantas Airlines electronic ticket, 4 days before I was to leave ( Nov 11th 2012) which when I called Qantas proved to be false, that is when I started to suspect that something was wrong

11. My wife was already in KL staying with friends waiting for me to join her

12. She drove over to the hotel and found to her shock that the HR director had left the job a a couple of weeks ago, on further questioning also revealed that they had an Executive Chef on board

13. I had already resigned and given two months’ notice .

I have all the documentation and email trail copies of which have been submitted to KL police

Police in Kl are still investigating, I have had precious little reaction from [the hotel] in KL or at the head office in the US

 See the previous post for more suggestions of keeping your job search safe. Be  careful. It’s  a scarier jungle than we thought out there.