Employment versus Deception
It is hard for students to associate deception with employment in a job market that is unfamiliar to them. But employment related deceptions are on the rise. Employment related deceptions tend to occur in economic downturns when jobs are scarce and when people desperately need an income. Although these deceptions are classified as white-collar or commercial crimes, like other crimes, they can also bring about legal trouble, financial loss, psychological distress, and sometimes even physical harm to those who fall into their traps. Employment traps are avoidable if job searchers are careful and become aware of how deceptions operate.
Cases of Employment Deception
Employment deceptions may take many forms. Below are some cases that have recently been reported in the media:
Case 1. Pay us to hire you
In a recent case reported in Apple Daily September 9, 2011, job-seeking students were promised positions in marketing company–provided that they ‘upgraded’ their English skills by attending a course from a specified language company. A good job with a promising salary can be such a lure for young people desperately looking for a job that some students paid. But never got the employment the company promised them.
There was more to this case. How did the company recruit job seekers? Well it seemed that the company operated on a ‘multi-layered’ promotional scheme. That means students who were already there would get some financial benefit or rebate if they could persuade friends or relatives to participate. We may call this an exploitation of trust.
Case 2. A company without a product
In another case, a university student was pressured by a friend to attend interviews that turned out to be ‘free training sessions’ where by he was surrounded by 3-4 team leaders who were trying to prod him into joining the company. Although there was no financial loss, this case illustrates that white collar criminals can be masters of group psychology, using it to create group pressure to ‘brain wash’ people for their own gain.
The student reported that in the end he was not sure what the company was selling at all except that it had to do with some vague brand marketing. Further there was no company information he could obtain in the form of business cards or on the Internet. A company with no clear products to sell and no clear company information is of course of suspect.
Case 3. We provide free lunch
This case is very similar to Case 1. It was reported in Ming Pao May 24, 2011 that more than 200 students fell into an employment trap involving a recruitment campaign launched by a marketing company. In the ploy, students were offered high salary jobs with very little requirements. Again, the job offer was conditioned upon their willingness to sign up for a make-up course for which they had to pay an amount of money. The ploy recruited students using a ‘multi-layered’ marketing scheme. We must remember that there is no free lunch in work. Be on the alert when you are offered high salary positions without requirements of any sort.
Common Employment Tricks
The thing about frauds is that they prey on human weaknesses most of which we are familiar with—greed, impulsiveness, over-confidence, and ignorance. If we are a bit more mindful of ourselves and the employment situation, the traps of employment should not be difficult to detect. Here are some common features of employment traps:
- Very good job opportunities introduced to you by ‘eager’ friends or classmates.
- Job requires little experience or qualifications for a good salary or bonus.
- Extensive interviews on potential victims to collect information to manipulate victim.
- Invitations to seminars or talks where victims are subject to group pressure to engage in sales or paying money.
- The companies provide very little information about themselves or the products they produce or the services they render.
- Potential victims are told to keep the ‘transactions’ or dealings confidential.
- Invitations to enroll in training courses to upgrade certain work-related skills for a fee.
- Potential victims are persuaded to use credit cards or to loan money to settle fee payment.
How to Protect Yourself
This may sound strange, but the first thing one should do before searching jobs is to be aware of the dangers that are embedded in the work scene. Here are some general guidelines for job or internship applicants to help them to avoid employment or internship traps:
- Be realistic and sensible about what is offered to you as rewards for your work and what is required of you.
- Be on the alert in interviews to avoid tricks and do not hastily produce personal documents (e.g. ID card) to protect privacy.
- Be cautious when asked to make payments or produce financial documents (e.g. bank cards) to avoid fraud and loss.
- Examine contract terms and conditions with care to avoid unnecessary future disputes.
- Do not sign any documents readily to avoid loss.
- Always check if your work duties match those prescribed by contract or agreement.
- Seek assistance from friends, career advisors, the Labour Department or the Police when in doubt.
In case of doubt, do check the business license and nature of business of the company you want to work for. If the actual nature of business and address deviate a lot from what is stated on the license, or if they cannot produce a valid license, or if the license is expired, it means something is going wrong.
Further information about employment traps can be found at these government websites:
Other Salary Information web-links: