Well this is true story and it started with someone with the name Sonia Abdullah, representing a recruitment firm after seeing my resume posted at ‘Naukri. She approached my mail box saying that her recruitment company is looking for a senior faculty in Visual Communication in the gulf region and would be glad if I can share my latest resume.
I forwarded her my latest CV and after a month or so when there was no response to it I forgot about it. Suddenly, I received a mail from her that after internal screening, my CV was found to be good and has been forwarded to different institutions for recruiting purposes.
They boasted that their company tries to get the selection based on the CV and there is no personal interview by the recruiter. They mentioned that after the selection is made by the institution they will handle the recruitment process further.
After few days, I received another e-mail that all recruitment selection is being finalized and the institutions will be handing them the list of selected candidates and if I don’t hear from them between 6 to 12 days that means, I am not selected.
To this when one week passed and there was no response, I thought it’s all over. However, it was on the 12th day that I received a mail that was actually an appointment letter, saying I have been appointed by Khalifa University as Head of the Department Visual Communication and Electronic Media, the post I currently hold at the Guru Nanak College Chennai.
The contract said my salary is 50,000 AED per annum that is 91 lakh in Indian rupees and comes to 7 lakh rupees per month. The contract further said my employer is ready to remit 75 per cent of my salary to my Indian account.
Further, I will be given family accommodation in the campus, new car, mobile phone and laptop for personal use. I will get two months paid leave in a year with air ticket and I have to work from Sunday to Thursday for 8 hrs. The contract said I have to join them by 12/3/2017.
The contract also said they will pay me two months advance salary in my bank account before I start for them to meet my commitments here. Also it said to reimburse the amount I spend here in processing the travel documents once I arrive in Abu Dhabi.
The contract letter was on the letterhead of the Kalifa University and was duly signed and sealed by the authority of that University. The sender wanted my consent immediately, filling up the columns and signing in the end, to start the next level process. Well this was more than any Indian college teacher can even dream for and I followed their instruction.
After that I received another mail saying that now I have to contact Emirates Travel Agency for the processing of my travel documents, residence permit and other such details.
And now the second round of communication started with this travel agency. They sent me a check list of papers and the handling rates for each of them to be processed. The total amount was 1450 US dollar, which is 97,000 INR. They wanted me to pay this amount upfront through Western Union.
It’s now I started getting suspicious about them as to why they have not given a valid account and want money through MO. Further, the Emirate travel agency had no letterhead, no website, no landline, the email ID was Hotmail and had no affiliation and accreditation as travel agent.
I tried to search this travel agency through web search and they had no online presence. Then I tried to search Sonia Abdullah, the person who tried to contact me with long and winded Islamic salutation.
I first tried her at the Khalifa University website and then inquired about her recruitement agency firm but there was no web imprint of her anywhere. I then tried to look for Visual Communication department in the website of Khalifa University but there was no such department there.
Still I did not give up and I wrote to Sonia Abdullah trying to find out the mysteries behind three things:
- Why there is no mention in the website of Khalifa University about Department of Visual Communication? She replied saying I am being recruited to set up the department in the coming academic session to start from July.
- Then I asked why they can’t deduct the paper handling charges from my salary which they anyway have promised to pay me for two months in advance. I got the answer that this is to ensure the seriousness of the employee’s commitment to the job and that is why they wanted the payment to be made upfront. She again mentioned that this will be reimbursed within five working days after joining duties at Kalifa University, Abu Dhabi.
- On my third query why there is no valid bank account to pay money. The reply was they deal only through Western Union as they have contractual obligation with them.
With all this, I had all the reasons to believe that they are online fraudsters and I wrote them, that I have to do their background verification first and then take further action. This made them silent.
I started forwarding the communication made to me to my contacts working in the Gulf Region in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharja to inquire their credentials of Sonia Abdullah and Emirate Travel Agency.
Soon I started getting the reply that they are fake people and I should not fall prey to such online fraudsters. When I got this confirmation from three different sources, I got convinced that I was about to fall victim to such online fraud.
I made a final try to contact Sonia Abdullah to know her feedback about my findings. To my dismay there was no reply. Her mails which used to be frequent trespasser to my e-mail ID simply disappeared from my Inbox.
The big storm of excitement that was blowing inside me finally settled down with a thud and I heaved a sigh of relief. Following this, I have reported the matter to Dubai Police headquarters cyber crime branch and they have registered my complaint. I did the same with Chennai cyber crime branch as well.
I am writing this personal account for the bigger audience so that they may get cautioned and do not become victim of such online recruitment fraudsters.
[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist and Media teacher based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org]