I’ve written about the Nigerian 419 scam before, but few know that India is now one of the largest exporters of counterfeit medicines to West Africa. As India becomes an economic superpower, there will invariably be a number of unscrupulous individuals who attempt to get rich quick by fraudulent means. Some of our con artists have set up elaborate schemes that are truly first-rate too.
Recently, an acquaintance in India who has over five years experience in the financial sector, applied for a job advertised on one of the major online job search sites. He thought he was applying to Barclays Group in the United Kingdom, one of the world’s largest financial institutions. The job ad asked applicants to submit a resume, and once he did he received an offer letter.
He thought it was odd that he had been given an offer letter without even having to interview, but he was soon elated with the salary mentioned in the offer letter. After he sat down and looked at the letter carefully, he felt the offer was too good to be true, so he shared with a couple of his friends, including me. I’m reproducing the offer letter along with some of the obvious warning signs with his permission and as a benefit to other potential job-seekers. I have no doubt that Barclays is unaware of the fraud committed in their good name, and I’m also refraining from mentioning where the job ad was posted, because it has subsequently been taken down at the request of concerned individuals.
If you take a look at the letter, apart from the use of anachronistic phrases and grammatical errors common in South Asia (such as incorrect use of prepositions, unnecessary capitalization, and official-sounding mumbo-jumbo), the scammers have created, what at least at a cursory glance, looks like a real job offer. Plus, the fact that this letter was not unsolicited makes it somewhat reasonable, right?
On further inspection, there are couple of immediate give-aways to the deception. First, I’ve never heard of a job offer that was not addressed to any particular individual. Had the scammers been more talented they would have personalized the fraudulent letter. In addition, it seems odd that there would be a document labeled “soft copy of your job offer document.” A real soft copy would be nothing more than a scanned or faxed version of a printed offer letter.
But perhaps, the biggest loose end is the exorbitant salary being offered. It is simply too good to be true and a real job offer would only have matched prevailing wages in the City of London. A five year contract for a job paying 9,500 pounds per month, various allowances, free travel and amenities in the midst of global financial turmoil is ridiculous for an entry to mid-level position even if the person had been grilled in multiple interviews!
Notice also that there is actually no mention of duties to be performed, an actual description of the job, or the name of the manager who the applicant is to report to. Finally, a quick search reveals that there is no Dr. Murphy Fredrick listed with Barclays.
So, if these fraudsters weren’t offering anyone a real job, how were they asking for money? This was where they showed a bit of sophistication. They set up a fake barclaysinsurance.co.cc website which looked a lot like the legitimate group.barclays.com website to allay fears. They subsequently took down the site after, what I a suspect was a successful conclusion to their operations.
Their scam was intricate in that there was no actual mention of direct transfer of funds in the cover letter. What the fraudsters did was that they set up a website for a fictitious travel and immigration specialist called Charlton Chambers. This was not mentioned in the “offer letter” but in the accompanying email. All transactions for visas and travel by successful candidates had to be handled by this company which had listed phone and fax numbers (+44-7024027790, 44-7024063929, 44-7024041676, 44-7960554113, 44-8704953788). Search for these numbers and you will find that they are associated with a number of other job offers, hinting at the widespread nature of this fraud. In any case, candidates were reassured that they would be reimbursed upon joining Barclays in the United Kingdom. I noticed that the website for this fictitious company went down in mid-July before a bulk of applicants were supposed to have joined. I am sure it has mushroomed elsewhere.
This last step might seem like it needed a lot of work in order to siphon money from hapless jobseekers, but because of the indirectness of the approach it was also more likely to succeed with sophisticated, but desperate professionals.
I hope people caught on to the scam. But I’m also wondering what other devious plan these fraudsters are currently hatching to prey on desi aspirations.
Footnote: Variations of this scam set up possibly by the same group or copycats send job offers on behalf of Vodafone, Pfizer, Standard Chartered Bank, Shell, “Hilton Hotel London”, Virgin Atlantic, Honda Motors, Marks and Spencer PLC, Gucci Company UK, The Bentley Hotel, Nissan Motors, Hyundai Motors UK, Hewlett Packard, and Qatar Airways London.
Text: © 2010-2012, Anirban