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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Encounter with Employment Scam

God, this world is getting more and more dangerous. If nature by itself was not difficult enough to live with, People around one make sure that one could never take his guard off. Now some genuine scamsters have taken the “people” danger to a new global level. Welcome to the Employment Scam I went through.

It started with me putting up my resume on a couple of web sites, purely on an experimental basis, to see how good those were . The going was good and I generally did get relevant offers. Then one day I get a letter from another prospective employer apparently from Dragon Oil, UK, asking me to send in my detailed updated CV, which I dutifully did. A couple of days later I get a response from the same guy telling me that they have found my resume to be interesting and asked me to answer a questionnaire attached with the mail. The questionnaire was intelligent and looked like it was from a reputed firm. So I spent some time on it and forwarded the answers as requested in the mail.

Five days later, I get a response indicating that they were happy to inform me that I was selected for the Job and that I was to be a General Manager with the company at their new Project at Republic of Benin. My pay - $ 19,000 a month. I was told to contact an attorney at Benin for further relocation and immigration formalities and that all my expenses towards the attorney were to be refunded. For good measure, the appointment letter was attached signed by none other than, Hussain M. Sultan, Chairman and CEO of Dragon Oil.

The offer was quite attractive and it took me some time to get back to mother earth and realize that I had better do some checking out on Dragon Oil. I visited their website and found that Hussain M. Sultan was indeed the Chairman and CEO of Dragon Oil. However their primary interest and projects were in Cheleken Contract Area Offshore Turkmenistan, in the Caspian Sea. There was no mention of Benin. Neither did their recruitment page have any positions listed.

I thought of getting to the bottom of the matter and started my research on the Internet. Here I came across the 419 scam a.k.a the Nigerian Money transfer fraud. The number "419" refers to the article of the Nigerian Criminal Code (part of Chapter 38: "Obtaining Property by false pretences; Cheating") dealing with fraud.

There are various versions of the scam. However I found a web site http://www.joewein.de/sw/419-phone-bj.htm which allows one to check the email or the document online. So I cut and paste the e-mail and checked it out. The answers were not very comfortable since it told me things I ought to have known, at least some of them. This is the advise I received:

(a) The word Barr. (barrister) mentioned in the e-mail was outdated and was generally referred to in the 419 scam mails.

(b) The e-mail used was a free web mail address. Any company worth it’s salt would have their own website and would use that instead.

(c) The location Cotonou (in Benin) had been used for many scams in the past.

(d) The email listed mobile phone numbers. Use of such numbers is typical for scams because they allow criminals to conceal their true location. They can receive calls in an Internet cafe from where they send you emails, while pretending to be in some office.

a. +447024074399 (UK, redirects to a mobile phone in another country)

b. +22993473212 (Benin, probably a prepaid mobile phone)

Lastly for any kind of immigration activities I should have been contacting the local embassy of the country and not some Barrister in Benin.

Cute stuff. I felt like going to Nigeria or Benin or wherever the scamster was and give him one solid punch. Unfortunately going to Nigeria would cost me more money than I would have lost as a result of falling for the scam. But the thought is dangerous. Imagine someone spending around $ 1000 in attorney fees only to realize he has lost it. Worse, someone actually giving up the current job in order to prepare for the move.

This was news to me and i think not many people are aware of this in my country. Anyways I guess it is best to tell family and friends so they don’t fall for it. The following sites describe the scam and its various versions in good detail.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advance_fee_fraud
http://www.scambuster419.co.uk/

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