From Uche Usim and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye Abuja
It was one of the many job vacancies advertised on an online platform and Ade Boluwatife, a Public Administration, graduate applied. She was not alone, thousands of other job seekers in Abuja feasted on it.
The phoney vacancies were advertised on a popular online platform that connects buyers and sellers without being a party to the deal. The advertisers said they were scouting for marketers cum administrative staff.
From the face value, there was nothing to suggest that the advertised vacancies were a decoy to scam and possibly destroy the victims who are desperate to eke out a livelihood.
Boluwatife submitted her credentials electronically as expected and waited for further information. Barely 48 hours later, her phone would not stop ringing. Her “potential employer” using various GSM numbers, contacted her to come for a “job interview.”
The date for the interview fell on a public holiday and the venue was somewhere in Wuse. She called back to remind her “bosses-to-be” that the date for the interview was a public holiday to celebrate Sallah. They told her not to worry “because we work round the clock in a 21st century arena.”
She became curious because employment procedures and processes are done on official working hours, rarely on weekends and certainly not on a major public holiday. To heighten her anxiety, her so-called employers were the ones constantly reminding her of the date, venue and time for the interview.
She told Daily Sun: “They were being so caring and unusually friendly. I asked myself, who should be desperate the employer or the job seeker? Who should be calling the other for the interview? Is it the job seeker or the employer? Something just didn’t add up. It just didn’t taste right. It was odd. My heart was cold, not revving in joy.”
To put her worries to rest, she got a friend to join her to locate the place and possibly determine the true nature of their business before the D-day. They did that, two days before the interview date:
“When we got there around 11am, we discovered it was a locked up warehouse that was not opened and no one seemed to know what was in there. It was not a corporate office as they made it look online.
“At this point, I concluded that the entire thing was a dangerous scam. If I came in there on a public holiday by 9am, only God knows what might have happened. The entire area would be deserted due to the Sallah celebrations. I could have walked into a death trap.
“But I managed to call back the number of the employer and told them what I discovered. He said there was no cause for alarm and thereafter, the number became unreachable.”
Why didn’t she report the matter to the police? Her response: “I was just scared. These guys may be a syndicate. I just let sleeping dogs lie since I was lucky nothing bad happened to me.”
Boluwatife shared her scary experience when the social media was awash penultimate week with the heart-wrenching story of Miss Iniobong Umoren who was raped and killed in Akwa Ibom State where she went job hunting. Her death sparked cyber outrage and many victims who escaped death by the whiskers under similar circumstances have relived their experiences.
Another Abuja resident that escaped falling into the hands of predatory job scammers was 17-year-old Elsie Oghene. She told her mother that she had been picked as a finalist in an online beauty pageant and they were invited to Ebonyi State for the final event.
He mother took over the story from here: “She was 17 at the time and as is usual at that age, she thought she was old enough to go on her own. Somehow we didn’t feel comfortable about that and my husband insisted I go with her. So, we went to Abakaliki.
“On arrival, we were directed to a hotel in a very quiet part of the town. The hotel was close to an undeveloped stretch of land. When we tried to check-in the arrangements seemed shabby at best and it was clear they had not expected her to come with her mother.
“Eventually, they put the contestants in a room by themselves and paid for it. The hotel was very shabby. The organizers refused to show up physically. Whenever we called them it was one excuse or the other. This continued till the next morning, which was supposed to be the event day.
“In the morning, they asked the girls to go swim in the pool (they called them on the phone as they were not appearing in person). I followed my daughter to the poolside and noticed some funny looking characters going in and out of some rooms in the pool area.
“When it was getting towards the afternoon and we still had not seen the organizers, we became suspicious. There was another lady who had come with her daughter from Lagos. We put our heads together and realised there was something fishy going on.
“We decided to check out of the hotel without calling the so-called organisers. We then went to the advertised venue of the pageant and we were told they knew of no such event. That was when we knew for sure that something was afoot and we went to the police.
“When we laid our complaints, the police sent some of their plain-clothes men there. When they returned, the police told us the organisers ran away on sighting police and that the place was a well-known hideout for criminals and cultists.
“One of them told me the plan was likely to rape the girls and use them for rituals. Eventually, we spent the night in a different hotel and came back home the following day.”