Feb 25, 2012

The Sound of Scam

I had an interesting experience today at Sulit.com.ph. I found this ad that was looking for work-at-home Web developers in the Philippines, inviting interested parties to apply to archer@debtresourcegroup.com.

"Wow," I thought. "Some of my readers might like to know about this."

So I asked the ad poster for details on the job. Naturally, I would not want to post it on the Nanay Notebook if I wasn't even half sure it was not a scam.

To establish their credibility, I asked them for the name of their company, some company background, the name of the contact person, and their payment schedule and methods.

Here's the "professional" reply I got (font styles, colors, and highlights not mine):
As you can see, this is a "work from home" job opening so there is no physical address. The company itself is in the United States.

We would like to reserve our right to privacy and will only disclose information during our screening and interview of applicants who think they are qualified.

I have been in the offshore outsourcing industry for a couple of years now and have worked with a couple of U.S. based firms who outsource full-time and part-time jobs to the Philippines. And every experienced independent work-from-home worker is fully aware that there is always a concern out there for the "validity" of the job and the company. However, this "comes with the territory". Payments are made at the "back end" so there will be a "waiting time" that may cause apprehension.Needless to say, there is no company that pays upfront. It is always done in the back end. I cannot even say that MY OWN salary is guaranteed. What if the company folds up tomorrow or days from now? There are so many companies in the US that are losing money and closing down left and right. Even giant corporations have filed for BK.
In actuality, there is as much risk to the employer as there is to the employee because the services of the employee also cannot be guaranteed. Offshore oursourced jobs entail a higher level of trust from both parties. Some might ask for a "guarantee" and all we can say is "it is what it is". One tip I can advise your readers to keep in mind is that "if the employer is charging an application fee or joining fee, then there is more reason to worry". In our case, may I reiterate that we are NOT charging any fee. We are just looking for someone to do the job.

And just FYI, we have interviewed 3 people today and are currently evaluating them.
My dear readers, may I just use this as an example of the kind of work-at-home job you do NOT want to apply to. Why?

Mr. Job Poster was right on one thing: there is naturally less security for both the company and the worker when you take a work-at-home job. How do you know you will get paid? How do you know they will not run away from you after you have submitted the work they needed you to do?

But he is wrong in one thing: it does not need to "come with the territory." A good and legitimate employer, being aware of such issues, will bend over backwards to establish its credibility with its applicants. This includes, at the very least, giving out a physical address, phone number, and the name of a real person to contact. Ideally, they should have a Web site. After all, in this day and age, a Web site costs a mere $10 to get and about 8 hours to create. It may not be the slick, professional-looking Web site you would desire, but it's still better than nothing, which is what www.debtresourcegroup.com is.

And if the company folds up, that's no excuse to not pay your employees, no excuse to say that salaries are not guaranteed. There may be legal loopholes, yes, maybe, but a decent human being will make sure that his workers get their due.

Mr. Poster says he would like to reserve their right to privacy "and will only disclose information during our screening and interview of applicants who think they are qualified." What are they hiding? If you are a recruiting agency, I can understand why you would not want to divulge the name of your company, although I know reputable recruiting companies that stand proud by their name -- but to not even give out the name of a contact person? No physical address?

It is a lame excuse to say that since the job is a homebased one, "there is no physical address. The company itself is in the United States." You cannot form a legal U.S. company (or even a legal Philippine company, for that matter) without a physical address. My virtual company, Escrive Writing and Editing, operates from my home. Therefore, that is the physical address of my company. My son's "school," Kolbe Academy, actually operates its homeschool program from a church in Napa, California. Therefore, the church is their physical address.

Mr. Poster reiterates that they are not charging any fee to applicants, so they are more trustworthy than those outright scams that make you pay money so you can do the job.

Not necessarily true. There are several stories on Odesk where the service provider did a lot of work, no "application fee" involved, but did not get paid in the end. The lack of an application fee is no sign of trustworthiness.

So what's my take on work-at-home job posts such as this? Is it a scam? I would not categorically say so -- but it sure walks and talks like one.

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