Online scams are a common occurrence and most of us have received emails asking to help a person in desperate need or a person asking you to be a friendly partner to help move millions of dollars from their foreign bank account to yours. Other scams focus on the acquisition of a degree from a university that doesn’t exist. These scams generated hundreds of millions of dollars for one such organization called Axact who has busted in 2015 and hundred’s of thousands were mislead or were willing victims.
A recent form of online fraud is university job recruitment. A journalist and media teacher from Chennai, India, Syed Ali Mujtaba wrote an article called “How can one fall victim to online recruitment fraud” which recounts a online fraud in which he fell victim. Ali Mujtaba received an email from a “recruitment firm” informing him of a senior faculty position in Visual Communications. Ali held a similar position at a local Indian university. The email stated if he was interested in the position to send the recruiter his Cv.
Syed was eventually offered a faculty position. He was sent a letter of the appointment on university letterhead, with the promise to send two months’ salary in advance to be wired to his bank account. He was later asked to contact a UAE agency in order to make final arrangements to fly to Abu Dhabi, this would include travel, visa and other security documents.
None of the above actions appear on the surface unusual and the identified institution, Khalifa University, offering the position is a highly respected institution which I worked for from 2010-2014. The only problem is Khalifa University was not hiring for that position, nor the department of Visual Communications existed.
In fact, a group conducting the scam was using the University’s name without their knowledge.
Ali Mujtaba became suspicious when the “travel agency” sent a checklist that included an invoice of $1,450 to cover handling expenses and wanted payment via Western Union. Fortunately he did not do so and soon learned from various sources it was a scam.
This story interested me at multiple levels. First, was the use of a distinguished university’s name as a method to gain the trust of university faculty person. Second, how might this situation have an effect on reputable recruiting firms who are hired by universities to conduct recruiting. The company I co-founded Edu Alliance, an educational consulting company, is one such firm and are hired on occasion to conduct university executive searches.
With the highly competitive nature of securing a position in higher education, individuals can be vulnerable to unscrupulous scam artist. Recruiters contacting people who have not sent them a Cv is common. A recruiting firm may send a letter informing a person of a position. How does the faculty member know that the firm and the opening are legitimate?
So how can you determine if you are not being scammed?
- What is the name of the firm contacting you
- Do they have a business email address
- What is their website address.
- Ask about the school and where you can find additional information.
- In the case of Syed he was told it was Khalifa University and the position was a senior faculty position of Visual Communications, a position/subject or major that doesn’t exist at Khalifa University.
- The interview; you will start with the recruiter who is tasked with finding candidates. The recruiter will initially interview you to learn more about you and to provide information but afterwards, the HR department of the university will make contact usually via phone or Skype and then a third interview usually with a committee and a senior administrator and for more senior position a fourth interview which is face to face.
- The school or its designated agent will never ask you to pay for anything. They will pay the airplane ticket, any security check, visa expenses etc. If the contract sent to you states you are to pay certain expenses in advance I would recommend you decline.
- If you have any questions, ask for a phone number and a HR or senior administrator’s name to contact at the university. If the phone number is not correct or you cannot find the name of the person you are to contact, Find the university website, and ask for Human Resources.
In conclusion anytime you and your family are dealing with information from the internet each of us must exercise caution.
If have you ever been contacted about a job you found out later did not exist, I would like to hear about your experience