Friday 11 September 2009

Evolving scammers

Evolution is a wonderful thing. All forms of life gradually evolve over many generations to fit better into their environment. As the environment gradually changes those forms of life that have a natural advantage are the ones that are most likely to survive long enough to breed, thus passing on the genes that gave them that advantage. This works for every form of life, even scammers (OK, admittedly a rather low form of life).

I haven’t received a single old-style Nigerian “419” scam email in months. Amazingly, the children of deposed dictators, lawyers representing deceased businessmen and dying benevolent millionaires have all stopped contacting me offering me a chance to share in their fortune. Evolution must be doing away with them. The environment has changed, it’s become more hostile to them. Instead other species of scams have emerged to their place. Initially it was fake lottery wins but now they mostly seem to be based on fake offers of employment.

We’ve heard from many people who’ve been taken in my companies that claim to be able to get them all sorts of amazing jobs around the world for staggering salaries and wonderful working conditions. All the victims have to do is cough up a registration fee and then a variety of other payments and they are promised a job. Of course these are jobs that never actually occur. They are as imaginary as the millions in those Nigerian bank accounts.

However, these scams are a bit smarter than the 419 and lottery scams. They are slightly more believable. Nobody with any common sense (Yes, I DO know that common sense isn’t common) will fall for the 419 or lottery scams because they’re simply unbelievable. Strangers just don’t contact you and offer you large sums of money. You can’t win a lottery you haven’t entered. That’s fairly simple to work out for yourself.

However, the scammers have evolved. They are now coming up with stories that are more believable, like the job offers. It’s just believable that a company would ask you for money so they can find you a job, isn’t it? It’s just believable that they would ask you to pay up front for visas, permits and travel. Isn’t it?

It might sound believable but that doesn’t make it true. It’s simply not how recruitment works. In every country I’ve ever worked it works the same way. Recruitment starts with a vacancy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a diamond company, a government or a cruise ship. A vacancy exists and often the employer will appoint a recruitment company to advertise for applicants. The key thing is that the employer pays the recruitment company, not the applicants.

If a big company in Botswana wants to fill a vacancy they’ll go to a recruitment company like HRMC and get them to do all the work for them. HRMC will advertise, process the applications, shortlist, review, interview, lobotomise and psychoanalyse the applicants and eventually come up with a list of the best candidates for the company. At no point will any of the applicants be asked to pay for anything, it’s the potential employer that pays.

OK, perhaps it’s different if you’re applying for a job in a foreign country? I doubt it. We got an email recently from a consumer in Francistown who had been conned by a company up there who were working on behalf of a Czech company calling itself Workerhire. This consumer had paid P250 followed by a further P4,000 to register with Workerhire to get a job in “Shipping” in Australia. He had already sent over his personal details as well as a passport photo to Workerhire to get this fictitious job.

We took a look at their web site and it’s very smartly done. It shows the passport photos that people have sent in with their success stories. However what you find there is simply unbelievable. They claim that there are vacancies for Sandwich maker earning $3,500/month, Au pairs at $3,000 and even Bank managers at $5,000/month. Do you really believe that any bank in the world hires bank managers on the internet? Of course not, it’s ridiculous. Not, however, as ridiculous as one of the other vacancies they wanted to fill. They claim that you can earn $5,000 each month as a marine. A Marine??? I know the US Government is having difficulties fighting their various wars at the moment but I don’t think it’s so bad that they are now hiring African soldiers from East European web sites.

As well as that nonsense there’s also the general lack of credibility of the whole idea. In Botswana we’ve been somewhat protected by the global recession. Our Government and our banks have been fairly sensible over the last few years, they haven’t lent too recklessly, they haven’t taken your money and mine and bet it on a horse like those in other countries have done. Bu the effect in other countries has been serious. In the UK they are expecting unemployment levels to soar. If you believe Sky News (Yes, I know you probably don’t) UK unemployment levels might reach 3 million. So why does the Workerhire web site say it is actively placing people in the UK as care workers, factory workers and receptionists? They’re lying.

Then there’s the final straw, the real sign that they’re a bunch of crooks. The invitation to become their agent. If you give them P30,000 (yes, thirty THOUSAND) you can be their agent in Botswana. They say you’ll “earn from R15 000 to R30 000 per month” as you rip off your fellow country-folk.

Who can resist that? You should.

This week’s stars
  • Steven from Apache Spur for brilliant service.
  • The entire team at the Ramotswa border crossing for their friendliness.

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