Could you be a target of job recruitment fraud

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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 fraudwhich 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

How Valuable is your Education?

Dean Image April 2015 This advertisement on Facebook claims you can “Graduate in Minutes” and gives the impress that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai endorses them. It is a scam! A question;  How valuable is your education? How valuable is education to the UAE? In my opinion the answer is priceless. In 2010 UAE Vision 2021 was launched by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE. One of the national priorities was the development of a first rate education system and a transformation of the current education system and teaching methods. It meant students who completed their higher education would be able to find well paying jobs and be academically prepared to accept and management responsibility and eventually leadership roles. In real terms a college graduate makes hundreds of thousands of dirhams more than a high school graduate over their lifetime. The UAE higher education community consists of over 100 institutions with enrollment of 120,000 students consisting of Emirati’s and students from over 100 countries. During the past year there has been a significant increase in advertising on radio, TV and especially social media to attend various colleges and universities. Many of these adverts promote getting your degree online. Online learning for mature students can be a excellent pathway, if from an accredited institution and is academically challenging. What is disturbing are the ads, which do not identify the college and promote getting your degree quickly, with little additional study. On January a news release announced the “Middle East Office of Academic Regulation & Examination establishes institutional partnership with leading organizations to support the development, quality enhancement and expansion of higher education opportunities in the region”. The release further stated that “MEOARE is an entrusted and independent body, and operates as a representative of the Gulf Ministry of Higher Education”. In checking the website at first blush it appeared to be a legitimate organization, but then a pop up chat window appeared with an invitation to call. The organization would provide a scholarship for only a “small” fee on a credit card. The stories generated by The National and Al Fanar pointed out these deceitful practices which took money from gullible people who thought it was a “real degree” However Ministry of Higher Education would not attest the degree and most the employers did not accept the degree a Who does this hurt, well just about everyone. It hurts the person who paid thousands of dirhams to get a piece of paper worth nothing and gained little if any academic knowledge. It hurts potential students who want to go back to school but are unsure which institutions are certified. It hurts accredited schools who work hard to provide quality programs. It also hurts employers who in some cases did not do their due diligence, and accepted the degree as equal to an accredited institution. What can be done?

  • First as the person who is interested in going back to college and getting a degree make sure the school is accepted by the UAE Commission of Academic Accreditation.
  • Second: the local and federal governments establish a Bureau of Consumer Protection where people can file complaints, has legal authority to investigate and take actions which can fine or shut down such groups.
  • Third: better policing or banning by social media corporations like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others. The best way to stop these groups is to quit accepting these fraudulent ads. Deprive them of their advertising outlets and a major revenue source.
  • Fourth: remember the old phrase “If it seems too good to be true it probably is”. Don’t let yourself believe you can get your degree with little additional study or effort. Remember, all you are doing is fooling yourself.