Last year Immigration Matters warned of fake job offers and scams being emailed to thousands of desperate job hunters hoping to work abroad.
Despite warnings from this publication and various government offices such as the Department of Labor and Employment in the Philippines, the ruthless scammers are still at it and people are still being duped.
The basic scam works like this:
Step 1. Applicants are initially sucked in by attractive low skilled job offers in the UK using (without their knowledge) the names of well known companies such as large hotel chains.
Step 2. Once you are on the hook, the fraudsters will ask you send a small amount of money as payment for work permit applications or VAF visa applications at the British embassy in Manila. They even promise to refund this to you once you are in the UK.
Step 3. If you fall for step 2 then you are now in the ‘net’ and wide open to further requests such as processing, flights and handling charges. The mode of most of the frauds is to build your confidence by only asking for a small amount of money and move in for the big kill later on down the line.
Last year the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in London has recorded more than 200 emails from job applicants and recruitment agencies in the country requesting for verification of the legality of the job offers they received through the Internet.
Applicants receive the bogus job offers via email with scanned appointment letters, work confirmation, and employment contracts from well known UK employers.
They are later sent instructions to contact specified travel agencies, immigration firms, and Solicitors, supposedly in the UK, who would purportedly assist them in the processing of their work permits and visas.
The job offers were found to be fake, deceptive, and illegal as all visa applications will now be filed at the UK Visa Application Centre of the British Embassy in Manila, adding the application should be done personally by the applicants.
Immigration Matters receives hundreds of emails from Filipino, Indian and other nationals requesting advice on these so called job offers.
The bogus job offers look real and would be difficult to distinguish from a genuine vacancy by anyone living outside the UK.
However, on closer inspection it is quite easy to see that the emails are in fact nothing more than a variation on a well known scam, many of which originate in West Africa.
The ‘fake job offer’ scam is a simple but crude attempt to extort money from vulnerable and often desperate job seekers who will clutch at even the slightest hope of finding work abroad.
The emails are usually run by gangs working outside the UK where they are difficult to trace and the millions of spam emails are allowed to continue virtually unchecked.
The emails or ‘bait’ contain a hook to catch the unsuspecting victim – it could be a dream job offer abroad, but could equally be a ‘lottery win’ notification or a bank official claiming to control the fortune of a deceased General or plantation millionaire.
Once the victim takes the bait they will be led through a series of steps eventually leading to sending a small amount of money or even a series of payments until they eventually realise they have been conned.
Telephone numbers are not UK landlines
The so called ’employers’ can be genuine companies, like large care or catering groups, who are unwittingly being used in the illegal racket. In other cases they are fictitious businesses with similar names to real firms.
The first thing I notice is that although the telephone numbers may look like UK numbers, they are not UK landlines, but can be answered from anywhere in the world. Most medium to large businesses in Britain work from proper landlines, not from a mobile answered by some guy in the street. Smaller companies or consultants may work from a mobile, but this will usually be registered in the UK.
Medium to large companies also have a proper email domain and do not use Yahoo or Hotmail accounts to communicate with the public.
The type of job offered tends to be for low or semi skilled occupations such as Drivers, Waiters, Kitchen Hands and Chamber Maids.
Low skilled jobs are not open to non EU migrants under the Points Based System (PBS – see UK Border Agency website), which replaced the Work Permit scheme in November 2008.
Employers wishing to recruit non EU migrant workers must first be licensed as a Tier 2 ‘Sponsoring employer’ by the UK Border Agency. Employers will usually only be able to hire non-EU workers for jobs which appear on the official Shortage Occupations list.
Furthermore, under PBS work permits have been replaced by a new system. Employers now issue an electronic ‘certificate of sponsorship’ to the qualified worker who then applies online for entry clearance at the British Embassy.
There are no Work Permit fees and no paper based Work Permit documents.
Applicants must score sufficient points to qualify for entry – see Working in the UK.
6 ways to spot a fake job offer
Here are six useful tips from Cynthia Barker, Manager of London based immigration firm Bison UK. Cynthia, who has helped thousands of workers and students come to the UK, said there are a number of questions you should first ask yourself when looking at employment offers.
- Is the recruitment method unusual or suspicious?
Companies do not hire workers by sending unsolicited emails and in countries like the Philippines recruitment of workers is regulated by government agencies such as the POEA. Genuine employers will usually interview candidates or use a reputable agency.
- Has the job been advertised through legitimate media in the UK?
Jobs advertised to foreign or non EU workers are normally be advertised on the official Job Centre Plus website and in some cases in the press. If not, the employer will be unable to obtain permission to employ the worker under Tier 2 of the Points Based System. See http://www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk/. Remember, anyone can set up a website, so you need to look further than an internet based advertisement.
- Is the Job of the official Shortage Occupation list?
If the job is not a shortage occupation the chances of obtaining a certificate of sponsorship is greatly reduced.
- Does the post qualify under Tier 2?
The job role must be at or above NVQ Level 3, otherwise the employer will not be allowed to employ you and you will not get a visa to enter the UK. See Working in the UK. For instance, a Waiter or Cleaner will be considered at below NVQ Level 3 and will not qualify under Tier 2.
- Does the employment letter contain a UK landline and address?
Most of the letters we see do not have landline telephone numbers (e.g. with the prefix 0208 or 01707) and many have PO Box addresses or addresses which simply do not exist. A few minutes on the internet on sites like Royal Mail Postcode Finder or Google Maps should reveal all you need to know.
- Have you been asked to send money?
UK employers and UK agencies are not allowed to charge placement fees, even though this practice may be acceptable in many countries which supply staff to the UK. If you are asked to send money for any reason this is the first sign that you are being sucked into a scam or confidence trick.
What else can you do to avoid being conned?
- Research the company – use websites such as Companies House and Yell.com.
- Look at the company website – check if job vacancies are advertised
- Call or email the head office or HR department direct and inform them of the offer.
- Check the email address – most fraudsters use free Yahoo or Hotmail account rather than an in-house ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’ domain.
- Ask a friend or relative (if you have one in the UK) to call or visit the employer.
- Contact your Embassy in London or your local labour department.
- Set up a spam filter – a good spam filter will usually spot the emails as spam and save you time and money.
Finally, use your judgement and common sense – if something seems too good to be true it probably is.
Have you received a fake job offer? The BBC are making a special documentary about these scams and would like to hear your story.
You can comment on this story below.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa or an appeal against a refusal please email:
UK Border Agency – Sponsoring Migrant Workers