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Beware of bogus employment agencies

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Many matriculates and tertiary graduates are now on the job hunt. Armed with enthusiasm and their new qualifications, many will be approaching recruitment and staffing organisations to assist them in finding employment in a strained job market.
This is according to KC Makhubele, president of the Federation of African Professional Staffing Organisations (APSO), an industry body committed to the upliftment and professionalisation of the labour recruitment industry in South Africa.
However, Makhubele warns that not all staffing agencies are as legitimate as they may seem.
“While the majority of recruitment agencies have candidates’ best interests at heart, there are those who prey on people who are unfamiliar with the recruitment process and who may be desperate for a job. This places first time job-seekers at risk of being scammed,” he explains.
To help job seekers select a credible recruitment company, Makhubele offers the following advice:

Jobs won’t just land in your lap
When looking for candidates, recruiters will either post the vacancies on their own website or an online job portal. The position may also appear on the employing company’s website. You will not receive a job offer out of the blue from a recruiter unless your CV is on their database and you have been interviewed beforehand – either face-to-face or telephonically.

Verify that the recruitment agency exists
You can do this by checking for an official website. If they do not have one, or it does not have contact details, then you should be cautious.
If they do have one, check if the website is real by examining the URL. Scammers often use fake URLs to pose as well-recognised companies. On bogus websites, the URL may contain numbers or misspelled words. You should also establish the country in which the website is based or hosted.
In addition to looking at the company’s website, you should do both online and offline research about the organisation. For instance, you could check to see if their phone number is listed in the Yellow Pages and assess whether the company is authorised to trade in South Africa by checking the VAT number.

Avoid agencies or companies that use free email accounts
Those that correspond from accounts such as Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail are likely to be scammers. Genuine job-related emails will be sent from corporate email accounts.

Do not pay any money
A candidate should never have to pay a reputable recruitment agency in order to be listed on their database, secure a job or for any other reason.
You should also beware of recruiters that offer to train you for the job in exchange for money. The law forbids employment agencies from charging candidates to secure employment. Services provided by legitimate agencies are free of change for job-seekers, they make their money by charging a service fee to client organisations for sourcing and managing their workforce, never the job-seeker. The fee charged to client organisations also does not come out of the worker’s back pocket.

Never share photos or personal information
Never include a photo of yourself unless it is an important feature of your industry such as in modelling. How you look is not relevant to your qualifications for the position.
You also should also not divulge your ID number, home address or salary until you have confirmed the company’s authenticity. By revealing this information, the scammer could commit identity theft, apply for credit cards and run up enormous bills in your name.
It is imperative that you do not disclose your personal banking details during the recruitment process unless you have been hired and are making arrangements for your payment and tax deductions.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
Job descriptions which state that no specific skills or experience are required should be treated with scepticism. Those that have ‘work from home’ in the title should also be considered with caution as they are favourite among fraudsters.
Beware too of overblown salary offers. Check the amount being offered against the norm for that particular role and your level of experience by looking at the results of salary surveys. If you are being presented with a salary that is way over this figure, you are probably in the process of being scammed.
In addition, scammers will often advertise that they can guarantee candidates a job. However, all an agency can do is consider you for a potential vacancy, promote you to the client and hopefully secure an interview during which you can sell yourself.

Familiarise yourself with genuine recruitment agencies within your desired industry
Ask people you know in your preferred field to refer you to recruiters with which they are familiar. You could also go to organisations that interest you and find out which recruiting firms they use.
Makhubele adds: “If you have been a victim of employment fraud, ensure that you stop all communication with the ‘agency’ and report the matter to the department of labour. If you have paid any money, contact your bank straightaway and go to your nearest police station with all the correspondence you have received together with proof of payment and open a criminal case.
“To ensure that you deal with an agency that is legally compliant and adheres to a code of ethics and good practice, approach one that is an APSO member. When it comes to your future and your career, it is always better to be safe,” he says.