Conmen Fleece Desperate Job Seekers During Pandemic

(Conmen Fleece Desperate Job Seekers During Pandemic)

If it sounds to good to be true ...

Rose Nyambura had just completed her journalism course at Egerton University and was in her final internship. She desperately needed a job to cushion herself and her family from unemployment shocks caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nyambura 22, who is to graduate this month in a virtual ceremony, was thrilled when she came across an online job opportunity at a local television station.

“It was very attractive and I could not have been more thrilled,” she says.

“A number had been provide. On calling I was asked to send my CV, KCSE details and a brief description of myself.

“A few days later I received a call from a man who said I had been shortlisted for an interview.

He told me to bring a smartphone, laptop, notebook and pen,” she narrates.

He also asked her to send him Sh5,000 “so he could talk nicely to the bosses and speed up processing of a Certificate of Good Conduct”, which she didn’t have.

Fortunately, before she could send the money and go for the interview, she met a friend who had been lust as desperate as she was to land the same TV job.

He told her he had been conned and robbed. When he attended the interview, he was robbed of his Sh5,000 and his smartphone.

In Nakuru – and elsewhere around Kenya – fraudsters are taking advantage of the Covid-19 economic slowdown to up their game using posters, social media and bogus website.

They steal hundreds of thousands of shillings, maybe more, from unsuspecting youth and older people desperate for work.

Those who physically show up for interviews sometimes lose not only their ‘fee’ but also valuables such as laptops and smartphones.

A look at electricity poles and walls in almost all residential estates in Nakuru reveal hundreds of notices and advertisements for jobs promising attractive pay and benefits, commissions and allowances, plus company vehicles and annual bonuses.

Within the CBD some tricksters are placing job adverts in sealed glass notice boards in some of busiest and most reputable high-rise commercial buildings.

Jobs include plum posts in NGOs, private education and health institutions, law firms, companies, hotels and tour companies.

The bogus employment agencies use sophisticated graphics, captivating fonts and tempting, persuasive language. They leave telephone and email contacts.

The lower-end segment has not been spared. Notices from individuals and job agencies advertise for househelps, shamba boys, watchmen, cooks and drivers in leafy suburbs. Most estates have notices of these jobs.

Driver Simon Muchile decided to try his luck with an advert pinned to an electricity poll in the sprawling Kaptembwa Estate in April.

“I had just lost my job after a manufacturing company I was working for scaled down operations because of Covid-19.

I spotted an by a recruitment agency looking for truck drivers for a prominent businessman based in Milimani Estate I felt lucky.

I had all the qualification,” Muchile narrates.

Without hesitation, he called the phone number and was told to drop his CV that afternoon.

“I was directed to a very old building along Kenyatta Avenue where I was met on the ground floor by a decently dressed and smooth-talking lady.

She ushered me to seat next to a security guard before disappearing behind a flight of stairs.”

Within 10 minutes Muchile received a call from the same woman who told him to wait as he had been successful and would start work the next day.

“I was overjoyed. When the charming lady in her mid-20s came back, she asked me to deposit Sh6,000 with the agency for a uniform and a Sh2,000 service fee.”

He didn’t have the money so he made frantic calls to friends and relatives to top up the amount.

“The lady went upstairs after receiving the money and that was the last I heard from her.”

The Sh8,000 was gone. The ‘recruitment agency’ number went unanswered.

“On enquiring from the security guard about the exact location of the
recruitment agency, he growled that he didn’t know what dealings I had with the lady.

He told me to leave,” Muchile says.

He didn’t report the case, knowing he fell for the scam.

So bold are the conmen that last week when Nakuru county announced vacancies for 800 medical specialists in 73 sections within the Health department, the fraudsters infiltrated the system.

They started demanding money from shortlisted candidates via emails and phone calls.

Health CEC Dr Zachary Kariuki issued a notice saying, "We have received information that unscrupulous people are calling applicants shortlisted for positions in the health department, asking for money to secure positions.

We notify the public to beware of these con artists. We do not condone corruption.”

He said con artists on social media platforms even ask health workers shortlisted for the interviews not to send money to individuals and instead report the money requests to authorities.

Another scam victim, Dennis Mabeta, says he had high hopes of landing a job as an accounts assistant at a leading automotive body fabricating firm in Nakuru’s Industrial Area. Then he came across a job notice in Langa-Langa Estate.

“I even encouraged my friend to apply job as they had ‘16 vacancies for accounts assistants’. We never saw anything fishy or read mischief and we applied through the email provided,” Mabeta says.

He and his friend then received calls from a man calling himself the ‘manager’ and directing each of them to deposit Sh7, 000 if they needed the job.

“Desperate to land jobs in these hard times, we complied.

My friend borrowed money from his father, while I was lent the money by a shylock,” Mabeta says.

The ‘manager’ was unreachable on his cell phone the moment the money landed in his account.

Two months on, Mabeta is selling facemasks in Kivumbini Estate while his friend takes menial jobs.

To track those behind the jobs scams, the Kenya News Agency scouted adverts and came across one on a wall in Lanet Trading Centre.

It was recruiting 80 salesmen to work for a major bakery company in Industrial area.

The Starting salary was Sh30,000, there were hefty travel and accommodation allowances and company vehicles.

On calling to enquire about the jobs, the man on the other end said the ‘human resources manager’ had to be ‘appeased’ with Sh10,000.

When we visited the bakery, the management informed us they were cutting back the workforce and had not advertised for any jobs.

The phone listed on the phony advert was disconnected.

It has become permanently unreachable after the bakery’s management attempted to contact the ‘human resources manager’.

Our investigations also established the scammers target women looking for work as househelps, only to end up in the arms of men not interested in their work but their bodies.

“We advise the public to be cautious about adverts on street notice boards,” a police officer said.

That warning is among many issued by various organisations urging the public to beware of fraudsters offering fake jobs.

The Public Service Commission has several times denied bogus job advertisements circulating on social media.

Big corporations have not been spared by schemers fleecing desperate job seekers.

In January this year the Directorate of Criminal Investigations expressed concern over the growing number of online conmen cheating Kenyans.

Through its Twitter account, the DCI urged job seekers to beware of anyone posing as employers or recruiters and to check directly with the company first.

DCI said online conmen use emails to offer jobs in exchange for money and said the emails should be considered spam.

“Beware of the emails, which offer jobs in exchange for money. No organisation or company ever asks for money to work for them,” the DCI warned.

In Summary

  • Brazen fraudsters are placing ‘job vacancy’ advertisements inside sealed glass notice boards in some of the busiest and most reputable high-rise commercial buildings.

  • Bogus employment agencies use sophisticated graphics, attractive fonts and persuasive, tempting language, leaving telephone and email contacts.

    The Star-20th June 2020

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