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Unemployment: Job seekers at the mercy of scammers

The high unemployment rate in the country is driving job seekers to their wits end. But the emergence of scammers and other nefarious characters on the scene of job hunts is aggravating the sorrow of the unemployed. EMMANUEL UTI in this report looks at the stories of some job seekers, who have fallen prey to the scammers

 

Rising unemployment and the desperation of many to get paid jobs is fast setting many job seekers into hands of kidnappers and fraudsters posing as employment agents across the country.

 

Nigeria’s unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2020 is 27.1per cent, indicating that about 21,764,614 (21.7 million) Nigerians remain unemployed, thus making the nation one among the many countries with jobless people. In 2021, the unemployment rate has risen to almost 30 per cent.

 

The rising tide of unemployment has meant that young graduates seek unorthodox means of being gainfully employed, including church/mosque membership, even as some were said to have joined secret cults to widen their job search tentacles.

 

The desperation is now being cashed in on by fraudsters who smile to the banks by cajoling job seekers and fleecing them or in worst-case scenarios, kidnap them through non-existent executive jobs with mouthwatering pay prospects.

 

New Telegraph investigation revealed that some job adverts on social media are fake and were designed by scammers to defraud desperate job seekers.

 

The most popular strategy employed by these scammers is to advertise a vacancy online, promising a huge sum of money as salary.

 

On applying, the job seeker is told to attend an interview session at a location, where he gets scammed or kidnapped. Narrating his ordeal, a former airline station manager, Henry Oladiran, told Sunday Telegraph how he nearly got scammed by people suspected to be kidnappers or fraudsters. His search for a job did not last long before he was scheduled for an interview at Onipanu, Lagos.

 

“My joy knew no bounds. I was told to meet them at a particular street in Onipanu, but I was not given an address. I was just told to come and they directed me till I got to the street. “Right there on the street, I called the agent who had directed me to the address but I was told to just wait at the junction for a staff from the recruitment agency sent to lead me to the office.

 

“I began to grow goose pimples as I kept calling the agent but my call was not answered. It was at that point I suspected that something was wrong, until someone signaled me that he was the one sent to lead me in.”

 

What was surprising to Henry, however, was how everyone on the streets kept signaling him not to follow the man he was supposed to meet. “I noticed the traders in the area were trying to caution ‘something was wrong.’ I could not understand what they were saying but I realised something was wrong.” “So, I decided to buy a recharge card from a particular woman in the area to call both the agent and the interviewer only for the recharge card vendor to warn me never to follow the man waiting for me on the other end of the street”, he added. He hinted that the woman quizzed him to know if he were searching for a job to which  he responded ‘yes’. According to him, he would have fallen into the trap of advanced fee fraudsters had he not conversed with the vendor, who warned him to desist from the pursuit. Some scammers also pose as recruitment agents and charge between N5,000 and N10,000 consultation fees aside from the huge rent. Daniel Okoroafor, a student, said he lost N40,000 to fraudsters, who acted as agents last year. He explained that he was so desperate for a job that when he heard that a certain agent at Ikeja, Lagos, was used to getting job placement for people at airports and seaports.

 

He did not bother to make further checks. Okoroafor said that after he had paid N10,000 as consultation fees, the agent told him he would take 30 per cent of his first salary to which he agreed out of desperation. Later on, the agent told Okoroafor to pay a non-refundable N30,000 to secure his place at the airport as a ticketer and that the N30,000 was to buy the mind of the head of the particular airline he would work for.

 

In the end, Okoroafor realized that he had been scammed after he got no calls from anyone in the airport. “I tried calling the agent to know when I would resume but his number was unreachable.

 

That was when I gave up”, he said. As the case of job fraud continues to rise, its worse form is the rising cases of kidnapping and harassment. In some instances, job seekers are harassed on the scene or kidnapped while their families pay a ransom for their release. In the case of Nkechinyere Oluka, she received countless emails from a supposed employer, who indicated that she was scheduled for an interview at Ikeja.

 

Since she was unemployed, she decided to give it a trial but the outcome was devastating.

 

She explained that on getting to the street of the employer as written in the several emails she got, she had a premonition of imminent danger merely by noticing how cold the street was and how odd the building she was to enter appeared. Oluka, who later waved the thoughts of an impending disaster, revealed that minutes after she entered the compound, some hefty men shut the gate firmly and demanded that every job applicant pays a sum of N5,000. Amazed, as she and several others had no money on them, she rebelled against the men, telling them if she had a job, she would not be in their unfortunate compound. To her surprise, she was forcefully taken to another room in the compound where she met two hefty men who, on seeing her, slapped her many times. She was told to cooperate with them or call someone to transfer N5, 000 on her behalf. Not clear as to what the men meant by ‘cooperation’, she asked them what they meant but their responses were not favourable. “The men said they were going to have sex with me to teach me a lesson if I did not find a way to pay them”, she said.

 

One of the men soon charged forward, groping her breasts, asking if they were the reason she was confident to challenge the men who had shut the gate.

 

Knowing a terrible fate could befall her, she began to plead with the men who, after several hours of pleading in tears, finally let her go. Sunday Telegraph findings showed that these scammers are used to spamming people by severally sending emails and texting them about an opening in a particular area, usually Ikeja. The spam messages are almost usually as carefully orchestrated as a standard message from a real employer.

 

 

Findings showed that a certain set of scammers identified as Elyte Consult, formerly situated at Chemline House at Ikeja, Lagos, champions the league of scammers disguising as employment agents in Lagos. A student of University of Lagos, Ibrahim Azeez, who would have fallen prey to the gimmicks of these job scammers in 2017, hinted that Elyte and Cflead are notorious companies, who defrauded job seekers.

 

According to him, blocking these companies from sending one mails or texts about employment cannot solve the issue of spamming as they would find a way to send five mails to one person in three minutes.

 

A Twitter user, Damilola Hanit, warned that people should not bother wasting their efforts and resources when they receive mails from Elyte Consult as they are the leading group of fake employment agents in Lagos. Her words: “If you receive any email from Elyte Consult, do not waste your funds. They are scammers.

 

They have stepped up their games by building a website but they are scammers. Their new hideout is 150b Oba Ogunji road, Ifako-Agege, Pencinema besides Pythagoras College, Lagos.”

 

As prominent as the cases of job scams and fake job invites are in Nigeria, research has proven that people can avoid being victims of this growing menace. Emem Atat, a writer, who believes the excesses of job scams can be curtailed when people avoid fruitless enterprises disguised as serious companies highlighted some of the many ways fake employment agencies deceive people.

 

Emem explained that when a job invite is not addressed to the receiver of the mail, it is most likely to be from a scammer, adding that a genuine job invite will address people by their first name and not random words like “Applicant” or “Candidate.”

 

He further explained that vague job titles such as “Entrepreneurship training”, “Leadership Assessment”, “Business Orientation” or “Employability Assessment” indicates that the invitation is fake Emem, who remarked that scammers can be spotted by telling people to come with a printed copy of the mail they received, advised that the urgency of the interview especially when the recipient did not apply for a job is a red flag young graduates should watch out for.

 

Although the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HUCAPAN) is making moves to end quackery among recruiters through collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Labour to organize monitoring teams to eradicate job scammers from the country, it seems as though job scammers of all kinds continue to grow and thrive especially on the increasing rate of unemployment in the country.

 

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