Many unsuspecting job seekers have fallen victims of fraudsters. The perpetrators, who trawl various online platforms and offices disguised as employers or recruitment agents, ply their trade by cashing in on Nigeria?s rising unemployment rate. TOBA AGBOOLA reports on the growing menace of job recruitment scam.
Joseph Imodu, a job seeker, is angry and frustrated. When The Nation met him, last week, he said he was yet to come to terms with how he was swindled of N200,000 allegedly by some officials who assured him of placement in the Nigerian Navy. Imodu said sometime last year, he was approached in Benin, Edo State, by some people who claimed they had connections with the police.
He was told that there was an online recruitment going on for cadets. ?I was made to pay a deposit of N70,000, out of a total of N135,000 as fee required for facilitating the process, Imodu said, adding that after paying the fees, some of the applicants were assembled at Imaguero Girls College, Benin City, to write the recruitment examination.
But before the exams, Imodu said he and other job seekers were made to part with another N10,000 each. This, according to him, was to ensure they scaled through the recruitment exercise. He said, thereafter, they were asked by the ?coordinator to wait for a Short Message Service (SMS) within the next 24 hours, which was supposed to inform them of the outcome of the exams as well as the next stage.
But as it turned out, it was the end of communication between him and the supposed recruitment agents. Listen to Imodu: ?After waiting for about three days without any message, some of us tried frantically to reach out to our contact persons on the phone, but none of such calls were answered.
?When I decided to go back to the website where we initially filled the registration forms, the site had been scrambled. Then it finally dawned on me and most of us that we had just been scammed.?
Adeniyi Olatunji, a graduate, also got his fingers burnt when he sought to secure a job through a flyer distributed on the roadside, advertising non-existent job vacancies in the banks.
?The flyers stated that banks were recruiting and in an effort to put food on my table, I called a man whose name was Steve as written on the flyer as Human Resources (HR) person. I was asked to send my Curriculum Vitae (CV) to his email,? Olatunji, a resident of Lagos, said.
He told The Nation that few weeks after, he got a message that his name was shortlisted for an interview. Excited by what seemed a prospect of getting a job, Olatunji promptly called the HR to explain the interview process.
But it was at this point that his travails started. Apparently aware of his desperation to get the job, the HR demanded the payment of N30,000 for consultancy and another N50,000 for an insider to help him get the job. Olatunji said he paid the money by borrowing from friends and family.
He, however, lamented that trouble started when, after making the payments, the mobile phone numbers of the HR could no longer be reached. And to make matters worse for the visibly angry unemployed Olatunji, he had to start rallying round to refund the borrowed money.
The ugly experiences of Imodu and Olatunji clearly mirror the growing menace of job recruitment scam in Nigeria. For instance, the President of the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPan), Neye Enemigin, confirmed that some people have been smiling to the banks by extorting money from unsuspecting job seekers.
Enemigin said the fraudsters perpetrate their nefarious acts by promising to secure employment for job seekers. ?This is very rampant during recruitment by government agencies. The extortionists are either insiders (employees of the recruiting organisations) or outsiders who claim to be connected to the top echelon of such organisations,? he revealed.
The HuCaPan president alleged that in some states across the country, people pay up to N100,000 to secure a teaching job in public primary schools.
He added that in government agencies, a job seeker could be asked to part with as much as N30,000. ?In cases where they are successful, the job seekers do not complain because they believe that the job was worth the price,? he stated.
Enemigin said the menace of scammers in the labour market has become one of the major challenges to the HR profession in the country. He noted that many unemployed youths fall victim to the fraudsters due to lack of job opportunities in the country.
He narrated his experience about a young man who came to his office as head of HR in a well-known company to resume work with a forged employment letter of the company?s name given to him by one of the scammers.
Enemigin was right. In the recent past, there have been many cases of fake recruitment exercises into the government agencies such as Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), among others.
Recall, for instance, the impersonation of the PCN in January 2017. This started with unconfirmed reports of how the PCN allegedly compelled job seekers to pay a fee of N48, 000 to be enlisted into the Corps instead of the usual fee of N1,500 for its official recruitment form.
In a swift reaction to this scam, the management of PCN openly disassociated itself from the N48,000 being allegedly claimed. The scam was exposed shortly after a Nigerian newspaper published a news story titled: ?In Desperation, Job Seekers Pay N48, 000 To Enlist In Peace Corps.?
Another recruitment scam that ate deep into the social media and email marketing space were messages and posts that claimed that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) was recruiting. Ironically, screenshot of the NCS website showed that there were no available vacancies at the Service.
To lure more unsuspecting victims into the web of deceit, the perpetrators of this scam went as far as reeling out specific vacancies that require being filled. Another deceptive tool used are fake success stories and referrals from those who claim to have received help from inside sources within such fake firms.
Basically, the scam is in two broad phases. First, the victims are scammed into believing there are existing vacancies within the companies whereas no such vacancies exist. The second phase of the scam opens up when members of the public being erroneously made to believe that the scam is real via documentation that seemingly look real.
The scam recruiters go as far as creating a story of how they can influence the process of getting the candidates into the service, riding on the influence of a certain retired military officer or influencial person.
According to a victim, ?They keep on forwarding messages in social media with an email address saying that all interested candidates should forward their CVs through an e-mail.
The victim, who claimed anonymity, went ahead to explain how the process works: ?If you send your CV, they will send you an application form to print out, fill and scan back to their e-mail.
?Once you do that they will send you an interview form telling you that you are invited to attend an interview, and before going to the interview a sum of N10,600 is required to be deposited into their account.?
Although government agencies release statements denouncing such fake or non-existent recruitment exercises, the scam thrived over a period of time, long enough for unsuspecting members of the public to fall victims.
The fake agents allegedly charge the desperate job seekers between N10,000 and N300,000, based on the agreement and nature of the so-called job.
Rising unemployment fuels recruitment scamming
Experts particularly those in the nation?s human capital space believe the current state of the economy is largely responsible for the growing menace of job recruitment scams in the country.
To them, the economic downturn, which may have been worsened by the nation?s growing unemployment rate, especially amongst the youth has forced many people to turn to job scamming for survival, as many of them have sprung up online and in offices parading themselves as employers or recruitment agents.
According to the experts, recruitment scam occurs when a fraudster poses as an employer or recruiter, and offers attractive employment opportunities, which require that the job seeker pays money in advance. To lure unsuspecting victims into the web of deceit, the perpetrators of this scam go as far as reeling out specific vacancies that require being filled.
The experts argue that the growing unemployment in the country remained a major contributory factor. For instance, figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that unemployment has risen by 189.1 per cent, from 5.5 million in the first quarter of 2015 to 15.9 million in the third quarter of 2017. It added that the figure is likely to increase this year.
The NBS stated that in the first quarter of 2015, the unemployment figure was 5.5 million whereas in the second quarter, it hit six million. In the third and fourth quarters of 2015, the figures were 7.5 million and eight million, respectively.
In the first quarter of 2016, the rise continued to 9.4 million and in the second quarter of the same year, it went up again to 10.6 million. Also, in the third and fourth quarters of the same year, the figure maintained its rise to 11.6 million and 11.5 million, respectively.
Last year, the unemployment figure was 11.9 million in the first quarter and in the second quarter, the figure hit 13.5 million. In the third quarter of the same year, the figure skyrocketed to 15.9 million.
Recall that the NBS has warned that the number of unemployed people in Nigeria would increase in the fourth quarter of 2017. The bureau made this prediction in its third quarter unemployment report, which was recently released on its website.
Sadly, the rising employment situation has compelled many job seekers to seek refuge in agents who in turn charge exorbitant rates or reach an understanding to share a certain percentage of their salaries as the case may be when the jobs click.
Also, a few months ago, it was gathered that kidnappers had begun to send text messages inviting their victims for job interviews but they hold them hostage as soon as they turn up at the addresses given to them by the abductors and then demand huge sums of money as ransoms from the victim?s family.
Also, research has shown that most job recruitment websites in Nigeria are operated by Internet fraudsters. Several recruitment firms are in the business of advertising non-existing job vacancies, with the aim of getting unsuspecting applicants to pay some fees, which are usually known as ?registration? or ?subscription? fees.
Others are in the business of printing fake vacancies and phone numbers of scam recruiters on posters and circulating such around various locations.
This ugly phenomenon has become a highly lucrative industry for its perpetrators as more and more people seek to obey their survival instinct by keying into anything that presents itself as an opportunity for them to earn an honest living.
Experts say that this trend has triggered aggressiveness in the youth who deploy short-term means of making ends meet, while many others resort to advanced fee fraud, touting, gambling and other anti-social vices.
They said while many who work for security officials at garages extort money from motorists and transporters, a large number of the unemployed youths have taken to corporate begging in the streets.
Checks revealed that the fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated in the way they operate and it is becoming more difficult to differentiate between them and genuine recruiters.
The Lagos State Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Idowu Adelakun, urged youths to be wary of such scams as there are some signs to watch out for.
Hear him: ?Never part with your money. The golden rule is, any job offer that requires that you pay a fee in advance is probably fake. Most reputable companies will absorb the costs themselves.
?Another sign is if the recruiter offers to train you for the job in return for money, NEVER pay them any money. No legitimate company or recruiter will ask for any payments upfront.?
Enemigin also advised job seekers to carefully go through job sites such as Naijahotjobs.com, Ngcareers.com, joblistnigeria.com. hotnigerianjobs.com, latestnigerianjobs.com, jetheights.com, gblcareers.com, naijajobslink.com, jobberman.com, http://naijaguardianjobs
. blogspot.com/, jobsmaster.com.ng, jobrapido.com.ng and nigeriabestjobs.com, among other genuine sites, rather than collect flyers on the road.
?HUCAPAN is making moves to end quackery among recruiters through collaboration with Federal Ministry of Labour to organise monitoring teams to eradicate job scammers from the country,? he said.
A HR Consultant at Systems Intellegenz Limited, Dolapo Jenrola, described the development as ?worrisome.? She said: ?The presence of fake recruitment agencies casts a shadow on the credibility of real HR firms. The more they are allowed to fester, the less people would want to trust or deal with organisations that provide real recruitment services.?
Jenrola lamented that unfortunately, the trend is growing every day, with little or no efforts by the relevant authorities to checkmate such development. ?The government should do a lot more to arrest the situation at this stage before it becomes intractable,? she recommended.
To stop job scammers
Experts say that it is bad enough that Nigerians are meant to grapple with high rates of job losses and the despondency that comes with such. They, however, note that it would amount to double jeopardy on the lives of such people to leave them to the antics of fraudsters, who lay in wait to fleece them of whatever it is that their lives are hanging on.
They, therefore, listed a number of ways to avoid fake jobs and recruitment scams. Some of them include doing a thorough search on the hiring agency or organisation, visiting their websites to confirm if there are legitimate vacancies.
They also recommend that as the year progresses, job seekers should steer clear of organisations that use free email accounts like Gmail and Yahoo instead of corporate email accounts, and also avoid being too desperate to notice the tell tale signs of a recruitment scam.