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The Daily Star
FRIDAY, 18 APR 2014
04:06 AM Beirut time
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Bogus job recruitment agencies prey on misery of unemployment
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BEIRUT: not afford to start With unemployment and the cost of living on the rise, opportunistic predators are casting their nets on job seekers and the unskilled labor force. If you have ever been victimized by a bogus recruitment agency, then join the ranks of those who borrowed money to purchase dreams they could with.

The latest trap: a newly established recruitment company promising you heaven and earth for a fee. The setup: nice offices, a warm smile and very convincing crooks. The result: continued unemployment and a few hundred dollars deeper in the hole.

The first thing to know about looking for a job through recruitment or placement agencies is that 99 percent of the time, the applicant should never pay a dime. Despair however, lures many applicants to phony companies and attractive job offers.

"Recruitment agencies do not take money from candidates; people who end up going to the wrong places are usually unemployed, easily impressed and desperate, and thus become easy targets for deceit," said Yasser Akkaoui, founder of PrimeJob, an executive recruitment agency. Johnny Chamichian, the Chairman of JCconseil, and a 28-year veteran of the recruiting business, concurs. "There are so many employment offices who charge applicants and that is unethical and forbidden by law," he said. "If any one of them asks for $1, it is a phony company, and those who fall in the trap are unemployed," Chamichian said. There are exceptions however, when it comes to paying fees to employment agencies. "Candidates should not pay the recruiting agency, but if an applicant says he wants a particular job at a specific location, then he becomes the client and we charge him, after delivery, a fee equal to 50 percent of each of the first month and the second month's salary," said Sabbah al-Hajj, chairman of Management Plus, a leading recruiting agency. Hajj said that in such cases, the recruiter plays the role of the promoter, adding that such candidates should agree to pay the fee only upon delivery and from the salary already earned with the sought-after firm.

"This is not an overnight business, Hajj said. "It is tough to establish and gain the confidence of the candidates." Impostor employment agencies usually place very captivating advertisements and take residence in well-furbished office buildings. Once people start to come in, these companies ask their victims for an application fee in return for a guaranteed job. "Then they fake a consent letter from a fictitious company and ask those applicants for ticket and visa money, telling them to wait up to 3 months to process their visa to a nice destination like the Gulf," Akkaoui said.

At $500 per head and an average of 10 applicants daily, that could easily translate into $200,000 to $400,000 in a three-month period.

These same companies then close shop and disappear for a while, only to open under a different name in other parts of the country. "Victims cannot prove anything because there are no signed documents and the loss is small enough that they cannot sue these agencies, especially when the first visit at the lawyer's office will cost them that much," Akkaoui said. Akkaoui went as far as to say that the minute the recruitment agency starts to promote itself as a company that finds jobs for people, "it means there is something fishy." In fact, he says, it is the job of the government to solve the country's unemployment woes. The government should also create partnerships with existing recruitment agencies to consolidate databases and make sure that there is a certain standard applied on the market, Akkaoui added. But according to Akkaoui, the government "considers recruitment agencies illegal and issues no licenses for them to operate, and this policy is allowing more and more crooks to establish fraudulent recruitment outfits run by con artists."

 
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