Employment Scams

Employment scams are a criminal form perpetrated by individuals or organizations posing as recruiters or hiring agencies offering or promising attractive jobs and big money to people seeking for job opportunities.

Employment Scams
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In the last years, we have received and handled thousands of job applications. And replied also to a huge amount of messages and request for information about an equally large variety of subjects on jobs and employment at sea.

But our mailboxes have sometimes been packed with inquiries about suspicious companies and hiring agencies and recruiters, or websites or organizations with a questionable look or contents advertising seagoing jobs; or with messages from people complaining or regretting having paid for what later proved to be nonexistent positions.

In this specific case, to work aboard cruise ships, the merchant vessels or gas or oil rigs; even though the content of this section is perfectly applicable to any other employment sector.

We take these matters very seriously, and consider it necessary to share our knowledge on employment scams to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair practices in the market by providing information to help job seekers spot and avoid them.

The truth is that there have always been many and very diversified scams and traps around employment supply and demand: fake job offers intended to acquire personal information, “inside” or “exclusive” information about the existence of job opportunities, or how to get hired in a certain position or company, supposed services with upfront payment to secure a job, and other come-ons worthy of study and analysis.

In fact, any person looking for a job may be targeted by this sort of scam. And to be more precise, by individuals or organizations with a complete lack of honesty and integrity, seeking to track down these same people and preying on them when they are at their most vulnerable to take their money or sensitive information by the implementation of more or less sophisticated fraudulent schemes.

Typical Employment Scams

Before getting carried away with promises of appealing employment opportunities with maritime companies, it must be made sure that all of the aspects of such offers – and especially its source – have been thoroughly considered.

Although there are a good number of legitimate opportunities to find a job through the Internet, there are also many bogus and completely illegal services operated by cunning fraudsters seeking for the best way to exploit people’s desperation for employment and economic improvement.

Before getting carried away with promises of appealing employment opportunities with maritime companies, it must be made sure that all of the aspects of such offers, and especially its source, have been thoroughly considered.

Although there are a good number of legitimate opportunities to find a job through the Internet, there are also many bogus and completely illegal services operated by cunning fraudsters seeking for the best way to exploit people’s desperation for employment and economic improvement.

Resume Blasting

This is one of the simplest forms of employment scamming, and focuses on a placement service by which job applications would be supposedly forwarded to "thousands" of companies and recruiting agencies within a fixed time period and in return for an upfront fee, including expressions such as "instant job", "satisfaction 100 % guaranteed", "no risk at all", etc.

A thorough study of such proposals will show a series of suspicious aspects and inconsistencies that should raise our awareness levels.

Sometimes, they provide a link to the referred list of companies; when clicked on, a small pop-up window will be launched providing a simple number asking for an act of faith on our part, or a list that amounts nowhere near the promised number.

A more rigorous investigation, including a detailed examination of some of the websites the job applications are supposedly sent to, will show the lack of email addresses to send anything.

Many websites include diverse – sometimes technically complex – online forms that must be carefully filled out to have the job application properly submitted.

Moreover, some of them specifically warn that any job application submitted through a different channel will not be considered, as a way to avoid spam, which leads to the question of how can these services forward such applications to them.

Perhaps by filling hundreds of forms for each single client who hires their services?

An efficient use of a calculator will prove the lack of profitability of such ventures.

Recruiters offer a certain number of jobs on which no agency has any influence. Their work (if it really exists) finishes when they send the job applications. No employment service can guarantee a job.

The reality is quite simple, with two possibilities after the payment is completed:

  • In the most of cases, nothing is sent.
  • In other occasions, the scammer spams thousands of companies, industry websites and online sites specialized in job offers and recruitment with the naïve job seeker’s details just to receive correspondence that usually includes valuable personal information, which enables the fraudster to scam other victims in a never-ending pyramid-like scheme.

Bogus Job Offers

A more sophisticated job scam with three interesting variations (so far) designed to obtain:

Money or Financial Information: Advertisements offering well-paid jobs and interesting working conditions with real companies, with the fraudsters purporting to be recruiting agents or human resources representatives. If you reply to such advertisements, a bogus telephone interview may take place and, after some time, discussion and exchange of information, you will be informed that you have been selected to fill the position. Nevertheless, and to secure the job, you will be required to pay an upfront fee to cover the cost of work visa, travel to the workplace, paperwork, "indispensable" medical examination certificates and processing of the application, etc.

Financial Information: Advertisements are posted on Internet job boards or newspapers to attract the attention of anybody interested in a job meeting the described criteria. This way the scammer takes advantage of those who finally decide to contact them by asking for credit card and bank account details or visa on the pretext of a supposed personnel selection process, or to deliver paychecks by direct bank deposit or money transfer.

Personal Information: More experienced scammers, knowing that asking for money or collecting financial information to steal money from bank accounts always attract more attention from the police and other authorities engaged in the prevention of this kind of doings, profit from people seeking for employment opportunities by harvesting personal information during supposed application processes. Job seekers naïvely fill out and submit forms with their full names, photos, physical and e-mail addresses, identity card and social security numbers, driving licenses numbers, passport details etc., which are easy to sell to other fraudsters and criminals interested in committing bolder scams or identity theft.

In all these cases, these scam artists often make use of sophisticated resources for scamming their victims, including fabricated websites mirroring the real Internet sites of companies or recruiting agencies, or websites representing fake companies and organizations supposedly registered in their country.

Phoney Employment Agency

Sometimes scammers carry out a more active campaign by scanning personal web pages and resumes on employment sites in Internet.

They send out e-mail messages to prospective candidates to pose as companies and hiring agencies, presenting themselves with official-looking websites and documentation, and making use of all sorts of phoney resources and carefully rehearsed pitches on the phone or in person – likely in a rented office, hotel room or similar environment – to gain the job applicant's confidence.

After a series of promises and affirmations supposedly made on behalf of legitimate companies, the victim is pressured to sign a contract and asked to provide personal information and an upfront fee.

Once the job applicant has made the payment, the “agency” either declines the employment offer due to supposed bad references from a previous employer, or adducing any other more or less elaborate lie or invention. Or just ceases operating and disappears.

Job Seekers Databases and Listings

Some employment and human resources services offer job seekers the opportunity to input their resumes into databases or listings for the companies and hiring agencies to access these systems to screen and select the appropriate candidates to fill their job vacancies.

Sometimes these services provide the adequate candidate or candidates for a certain position upon request from the human resources department of a company.

Typically, selling employers access to candidates or databases, or charging the candidates with a modest amount of money for additional services to their inclusion in such databases, is the main source of revenue for these sites.

Nevertheless, this legitimate business structure has been exploited by employment scammers to create professional-like websites to steal money and personal information.

You will be requested to pay a processing fee up to several hundred dollars before signing a contract to become "part of a computerized database", supposedly serving diverse companies belonging to the maritime sector. After a complete evaluation of your training, skills and work experience, they will match your application with the jobs available with such companies, forwarding it directly to the proper human resources department, including full cooperation and support to provide the candidate with a suitable onboard position.

So far, the descriptions of a quite common scam.

Job seekers will receive no job offer at all – because there is no one – but repeated excuses and requests for patience, before the "agency" disappears, leaving them alone with their contracts.

"900" Number Operators

Advertisements instructing job seekers to call a "900" number for more information on requirements to be included in a hiring process to fill different (and non-specified) openings on cruise ships or oil rigs.

"900" numbers usually charge a per-call or per-minute rate. As a result, many national regulations require that operators of “900” numbers provide information on their cost up front.

Nevertheless, artful fraudsters find their way to avoid it, failing to disclosure the cost of the call, or even creating delays to increase the final fee.

Generally, victims daring to ask for such information are immediately subject to a torrent of verbal diarrhoea and well-rehearsed pseudo-commercial spiel about the many advantages of working aboard a cruise ship or an oil rig intended to confuse them and make them lose the time sense.

If the victim does not become aware of what is happening, and after an indeterminate period of time (never less than 20 - 30 minutes), the operator instructs her/him to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to have her/his job application mailed out.

Once completed, the procedure results in the customer receiving a generic job application.

Nothing that you cannot find on the Internet for free.

Sometime later, a phone bill arrives for $30-$40.

Scam Courses

There are serious, competent and renowned private agencies and public academies that offer valuable training programs to those interested in working at sea.

And there are also opportunistic individuals and organizations with absolutely nothing to do with the maritime sector and no principles or ethics, or just a scammer trying to take advantage of those willing to pay for specialized training services leading to a promising career with a cruise or offshore oil company.

People may be required to pay from several hundred to several thousand dollars to receive an online or mail training course, which supposedly opens the gates to an employment paradise aboard cruise ships or oil rigs.

You will receive the typical package containing a folder with several hundred pages in it, and perhaps some CD, describing the ins and outs of working aboard a cruise ship or oil rig, including e-mail and telephone support service throughout the course to reply your questions and doubts.

Sometimes the offer includes the existence of a supposed job listing for those who finish the course and pass the final examination.

If you are a dedicated student, you will be able to take a test in a few weeks, obtaining a diploma that certifies your participation to the course and a level of knowledge that meets the professional standards in the industry.

Then you are told to be patient until a company shows interest in your profile, or encouraged to seek for a job in the sector.

The problem is that in most of the cases maritime companies and recruiting agencies recognize neither such courses nor the resulting diploma.

Needless to say that there is no job listing either.

Nothing more than smoke and illusion. Just a trick to fool people into paying a quantity of money and, worse, wasting a part of their lives in the study of a course that is worth no more than the cost of the paper they are printed on.

Often you will be offered the kind possibility to pay half of the cost (1,000 or 1,500 dollars), or a percentage of it upfront, leaving the rest of the total amount to be paid after the signing of the work contract with a maritime company or with your first payroll after a successful probation period working on board.

Leaving aside the fact that this kind of agreement is illegal according to most national legal systems and international instruments on labor rights and standards, the final objective of the scheme is quite simple and easy to understand.

They just want your 1,000 or 1,500 dollars.

Job Listing Services

The idea is to lure potential victims into thinking that they are dealing with a legitimate hiring agency or a trusted human resources representative working for a maritime company.

The scammer contacts job seekers with the purpose of offering a listing of vacancies that includes fake references and photocopies of classified job ads taken from newspapers and boards from across the world.

Typically, such ads are weeks or months old, and the promised vacancies were filled long ago.

In other cases, ads may be from companies located in countries with strict employment quotas and regulations that discourage the hiring of foreigners or citizens not from certain areas or international organizations (USA and Canada, the European Union, etc.) .

There are also fraudulent agencies pretending to have special list of companies and verified recruiters just waiting for your application to offer you the job that best matches your background and preferences aboard a cruise or oil rig.

Instead, they provide nothing more than a listing of companies with not a single position available to apply for, which are not accepting applications or resumes, and that, of course, have never heard of such agencies.

In fact, any job seeker can get a good number of addresses of maritime companies on the Internet. It is just a problem of spending some days of weeks in front of the computer screen.

Anybody who does proclaim her/himself as the owner of such an informative privilege is at least a spammer and, probably, a job scammer.

Tips To Avoid Employment Scams

You have to be on the alert about certain suspicious points and misleading information that must raise your mistrust about false claims and probable employment scams.

  • Job search or training services promising or implying “guaranteed” results or any other statement assuring job opportunities.
  • Before paying a cent to a supposed employment or training agency, contact some maritime companies to request for information on the practical value of the offered courses and diplomas.
  • Upfront fee for placement services that offer a dream job.
  • Agencies stating limited time reduced rates or special deadlines to apply for a position.
  • They will warn you to apply (and pay) before a date. In other case, the marvelous job opportunity will disappear and you will be taken off the list of fortunate applicants.
  • After the famous deadline, the offer is the same.
  • With another deadline, of course.
  • Companies or agencies offering salaries too high for the promised job.
  • Many of them offer fantastic starting incomes, which cannot be farther from the reality. In this way, you can find agencies that claim $60.000 or even $100.000 per year for an entry-level job.
  • Of course, this is not going to happen; it is just part of the trick.
  • In case, you are interested in such services, the best option is phoning or getting in contact with some company to inquire about this specific subject.
  • Income is usually higher in the maritime sector that in land-based companies, but only through long working days and because all of the expenses are paid for by the employer company.
  • Legitimate companies pay wages based on the skills and training needed. So, do not trust offers that imply earning a doctor or chief engineer salary. That is impossible, unless you are doctors or chief engineers.
  • Get caught up neither in dazzling offers nor in the urgency and desperation of the moment to find a job. These circumstances reduce, or even deplete, your capability to measure the veracity of the claim when evaluating and deciding how to spend your money.
  • Of course, never depend on oral promises.
  • Listing or database services that provide third parts with access to your resume.
  • In this case, privacy and confidentiality must be preserved and safeguarded, and the activity of such agencies must strictly compliant with privacy policy and data protection regulations, and internal security rules that guarantee the highest possible protection of stored data.
  • High-pressure sales techniques and a refuse to take “no” for an answer.
  • Supposed money-back guarantees.
  • Job seekers should not be duped by any promise of a refund if no job or lead materializes, which is an excellent incentive to bait those people not willing to pay money for a failed job search.
  • Fraudulent employment services will use an endless string of excuses for why you are not entitled to a refund. For instance, a request for copies of the rejection letters from the companies. The problem is that, in the most of the cases, you will not receive any of such letters from those companies, which are not obliged to reply.
  • In other cases, complaints and requests for refund will be dismissed on the grounds that the contract did not guarantee employment, finishing with a series of explanations about the natural competitiveness in a sector becoming more and more crowded with job seekers.
  • Other common subterfuge is to include a requirement that job seekers check in regularly with the agency, to later deny the claim for reimbursement to those who unwittingly fail to contact.
  • Nevertheless, and in most cases, even refund policies with specific written details describing requirements and limits to be entitled to refund are useless, because the scammer rarely stays around long enough to receive the complaints of dissatisfied customers.
  • A lack of interest in meeting the future employee.
  • In such cases it is advisable to seek for information on the prospective employers or recruiter through another source and contact them directly or visit their offices in regular business hours.
  • Lack of clear information on the services offered or the terms and conditions of the contract.
  • Ask for information on every aspect of the service, including general terms and conditions, full cost, etc. In the case of not receiving any reply in several days, or the company or agency refuses to provide you with crystal clear information on anything related to those subjects, you can assume that it is a job scam.
  • Rule out companies with no legitimate street address.
  • Companies or agencies that refuse to provide verifiable references.
  • Beware of fake references. Many websites dedicated to scam job seekers make use of impressive lists of people who supposedly found a job through their services; assorted direct testimonials from those already working aboard cruise ships or oil rigs, including pictures of smiling persons wearing their new safety helmets and smart company uniforms while posing at their workplaces.
  • Just a short paragraph or a single line, generally presented as “unsolicited testimonials”, with brief statements thanking for the information or services provided, accompanied by a name and a succinct reference to the physical address of the supposed sender of the message.
  • Sometimes, more cunning scammers use e-mail addresses with phoney names and details to reply to anyone interested in getting advice or direct references on the subject. In this case, you will receive a prearranged message relating the experiences and reflections of a satisfied worker who has benefited from this useful job search service, including diverse personal comments on her/his new job and how much it has helped in the solution of her/his personal and financial problems: a good wage, a new car, holidays, excellent social security cover and many other advantageous conditions.
  • Try to contact any of them again to request further information to check such statements – namely the company’s name or the supervisor’s contact details – and you will get no reply whatsoever.
  • In many cases, employment scammers, knowing that many of their potential victims will browse all over the Internet looking for information and references on the “agency” and its services, post fake messages in forums and blogs dedicated to job searching and career planning. There have even been cases of websites and forums edited and managed by these same tricksters just to fill them with multiple fake threads started and continued by supposed forum members engaged in long discussions, showing generally favorable opinions and perceptions towards the subject of debate.
  • Companies or agencies asking for financial information.
  • Legitimate employers do not usually need credit card or bank account numbers, which is just an option of direct deposit of paycheck.
  • Wait until the personal interview at the company’s offices before agreeing to a direct deposit option, refusing to accept the job if this is the only option offered by the supposed employer.
  • Companies or agencies asking for non-work related personal information such as social insurance number, passport or any other detail before offered a job in writing and received a copy of the contract.
  • Carefully evaluation of contact information in job advertisements or related e-mails, spelling errors, free e-mail address that does not feature the company's name, and inconsistencies with physical addresses or area or zip codes. All of them are common indicators for spotting job scams.
  • Careful attention to websites address (http://www.theweb.com) in the case of sites specialized in employment opportunities or usual recruiters, avoiding using links in advertisements, forums or other Internet sites, which may lead to mirroring websites and phoney replicas designed for stealing personal information in a form of deception called “Pharming”.
  • Companies or agencies that operate outside of the country or state where they advertise.
  • Scammers usually seek to distance themselves from their victims to avoid closer scrutiny and complicate the investigation by police authorities. They do not use a legitimate street addresses, but rely on post office boxes or set their headquarters, with little more than a nameplate on the door, in one state but operated from other distant location or even from abroad.

What To Do Before An Employment Scam

If you believe you have found a fraudulent job scheme, or you are the victim of an employment scam, report it immediately to your local police authorities, and follow these steps to lessen the damage to you and others.

  • Close any affected e-mail accounts.
  • If you believe that you have given some information to an unknown source mirroring as a real company or recruiting agency, contact the genuine organization to clarify the status of the submitted data.
  • Change the passwords on all of your online accounts, and open new bank accounts with strong passwords.
  • Record and save everything.

As you complete these steps to clear up the incident, always keep careful records of everything: printed copies of paperwork, written correspondence, receipts, e-mail messages (both sent and received), and records of telephone calls, if possible.

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We are open to receive – and we shall reply – any inquiry or request for information about maritime, cruise or oil companies, hiring and crewing agencies, websites posting jobs or any other subject that needs to be clarified in relation to job hunting in the maritime sector to prevent situations as described above or minimize their effects.

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