Scammers upping game by posing as employers

By Thanh Lam   March 17, 2024 | 05:00 am PT
Scammers upping game by posing as employers
A scam email posing as an offer for a job interview. Photo by VnExpress/Danh Lam
Minh Tu, a 28-year-old university graduate from Hanoi, was confident that she would never fall prey to all the scams running rampant across Vietnam. But then life surprised her in the least expected way.

After working for two years at the previous office, situated 15 kilometers from her house in Hoang Mai District, Tu wished to find a new job. She has used TopCV, a reputable job portal in Vietnam, for her previous three jobs, and continued to trust the platform. She submitted several applications as a media officer or project assistant to three companies.

Immediately that afternoon, she received a call from the first recruiter. After confirming Tu’s details in his application, the recruiter introduced her name, Hai Yen, and said that she was an employee of the state-owned aviation company, Vietnam Airlines JSC.

"I saw your CV on TopCV," she said, "and I think you are very suitable for this job post." She continued, "I would now send an interview invitation to your email, please kindly respond when you have time."

The email arrived at Tu’s address, with an invitation for an interview the next morning, with a link to Telegram, an online instant messaging service well-known for its high secrecy and confidentiality. The email ended with Vietnam Airlines' address and logo, which gained Tu's trust.

The next day, at 8 a.m. on Feb. 23, Tu clicked on the Telegram link attached to the email and was redirected to a group named "Vietnam Airlines first-round of recruitment," created by Hai Yen for Tu and six other candidates.

After the first test, which asked some general questions related to corporate culture, the individuals passing this test would be transferred to a different Telegram group.

A new person, who was introduced as "Mr. Hung" who allegedly works for the human resource department of Vietnam Airlines, provided guidance for the second round of recruitment related to customer experiences.

Dubious requests

Hung asked for the bank account numbers of Tu and the other candidates, and later transferred Tu VND150,000 ($6), allegedly as "financial support to help the candidate conduct the second test," and a strange Internet link.

"I clicked on the link, which directed me to a website named "Kien Thiet Viet Nam" (Constructing Vietnam) or something similar. I only remember that the website was flashing in different colors, which looked like an online gambling or lottery site," Tu said.

Hung then asked the candidates to create an account on the site and deposit the "financial support" received from the company to the site. This closely resembles how online gambling sites function.

Upon a candidate questioning why a reputable company like Vietnam Airlines would work with a lottery website, Hung explained that Vietnam Airlines was "assisting a partner to boost revenue."

Tu deposited the money.

Tu was then asked to submit a screenshot of the deposit, and sent the photo, along with her name and the applied position, to a different individual named Duc to confirm the completion of the second round of the recruitment procedure.

Duc then asked Tu and other candidates to "make some orders" on the website. Tu admitted that she lacked financial or economic knowledge, and felt very perplexed with Duc's request.

Tu asked Duc why she had to do these activities which seemingly had no relation to the job posting, to which Duc answered, "it was just a procedural test that every candidate has to go through." Tu followed the instructions, thinking that she had nothing to lose anyway.

"The website showed five rows, Duc told us to disregard the top four rows and focus entirely on the last row. He told me to put in some numbers and I did accordingly, before hitting the confirmation button," Tu said. "When the system confirmed the order had been successfully completed, I was supposed to take a screenshot and send it to Duc."

After putting in an order with the VND150,000 financial support money, Tu "won" and got credited VND350,000 to her account. Duc congratulated Tu and told Tu to withdraw the money to her bank account.

Tu thought that the second round had been completed, but Duc then sent Tu and the candidates back to Hung, saying that "the trial was done, now is the time for the real second round."

Hung then sent Tu a package of four orders, ranging from VND1 million to VND10 million, which would translate to hypothetical wins ranging from VND2 million to VND30 million, and asked Tu to choose an order. Tu was cautious and checked if she would receive the money as previously, to which Hung confirmed.

Tu then made a VND1 million order, the smallest available. As she had withdrawn the previously won amount, Tu deposited, made an order, and won VND2 million. She continued to take a screen capture to send Hung.

Hung then added Tu and some other candidates to a new group with two "seasoned members." The mission was similar, but the stakes increased. The lowest order was raised to VND3 million ($120.72) while the highest was VND50 million ($2,012.08). Hung explained that team members afterwards needed to make orders of the same value; while most candidates wished to make orders of the lowest value possible, the two allegedly "seasoned members" wished to make the VND50 million order.

Hung casually said "I would let the team members discuss" before leaving the group. After lengthy discussions, the two "seasoned members" agreed to lower the order value to VND10 million.

"I did not have enough money on the website, and could not make the order. If I did not make the order, it could affect the whole group," Tu explained her thoughts then.

The whole "interview" had then lasted for five hours. The two "seasoned members" appeared to be impatient and hushed Tu and the other candidates to hurry up.

Tu felt guilty. She did not want to negatively affect others, and hastily deposited VND8 million more so her account could reach VND10 million. She continued to repeat the procedure accordingly, and sent the screen capture. Two other members also sent the screen captures, and VND30 million was deposited to Tu's account.

But several people could not make the order in time. Hung then came in and said that the group needed to do a "make-up" order: every member who had succeeded the last time needed to make a VND10 million order, while others who had failed needed to make a VND30 million order.

Tu was confused at this point and she made an order with the entire VND30 million in her website account, instead of VND10 million. The group then had to do another "made-up" order. The group got frustrated. Tu then had to deposit VND30 million more money, and she did not have enough in her bank account. She became impatient and decided to borrow from her friends.

Tu had rarely ever borrowed money from friends, so when she borrowed VND1-2 million ($40.24-80.48) from each friend, no one asked any questions. "I immediately deposit all the money into the website." In a few minutes, the two "seasoned members" continued to send screen captures of won orders to the group, and Tu frantically asked a cousin who worked for a bank to borrow money.

The cousin was cautious, as Tu borrowed a large amount of money (VND10 million – $402.42). Tu then had to confess what she was doing. "After only a few seconds, my cousin immediately told me that I was being scammed, and there is no recruitment process like that whatsoever," Tu said. "I continued to argue that I could withdraw the money anytime, and tried to withdraw. Only then I realized that I need approvals from Hung or Duc to withdraw."

Only then did she realize what she got herself into. She immediately quit the Telegram group. "If I continued to stay there they would most likely drain me until I was broke."

Though she had reported to the local police, she did not have any concrete proof. All the messages on the Telegram group disappeared, according to the group settings. In total, Tu lost VND40 million ($1,622).

Fighting scams

A representative from Vietnam Airlines said that the company would never ask candidates to pay any fee for job applications or interviews, or ask the candidates to deposit money to any third-party websites.

Recently, many scammers also posed as Vietnam Airlines employees to give fake flight, travel, or gift vouchers.

The Vietnam Airlines representative said that all of these forms were scams and asked all customers to be highly alert, especially with requests that entail bank transfers or disclosures of sensitive personal information.

The representative also recommended all customers to call the official hotline of Vietnam Airlines to receive consultations, or immediately report to the local police.

A representative of TopCV said that the job portal had recently implemented a five-level authentication process to verify the identity of job posters to prevent all scamming activities from the portal.

The job portal has approved the authentication process to rule out all unreliable accounts, while working together with third parties to prevent frauds, inspect the internal processes, oversee all job postings, and inform the respective job recruiters of any potential scammers posing as the respective company.

On its main website, TopCV has also notified all job applicants of the rampant scamming activities, as well as informing with details the candidates of the most prominent scamming activities online. These aim to help the candidates from all unfortunate circumstances.

Tu now realizes that she should always be cautious. She was, admittedly, too confident.

She said that the scammers now are "too fast, professional, and manipulative." She now knows that no employers would ever ask employees to pay money for any job applications.

go to top