Fraudsters shatter US psychologist's dream of a fresh start in UAE

American mother-of-one said the prospect of a generous salary drew her in

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 31, 2019.  
AUH International Private School.
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
Powered by automated translation

An American teacher offered a lucrative job in the UAE has told how her dreams were shattered when she realised the role was a scam.

Eleanor Lurye, 38, a psychology lecturer in the US, fell victim to fraudsters after posting her resume on several job sites in the Emirates.

The mother-of-one had recently separated from her husband and the allure of starting a new life abroad on a big salary was a tempting prospect.

So when an offer letter arrived for the position of psychology counsellor at the Abu Dhabi International Private School she jumped at the chance.

Weeks later, however, when fraudsters claiming to be officials from the school began requesting cash upfront to arrange her flights and visa she grew suspicious.

"I had not long separated from my husband, was battling some financial difficulties and was looking for a fresh start," Ms Lurye told The National.

“Friends and family who had worked in the UAE said the country had great earning potential which made it the perfect place to set up a new home.

"I was jumping for joy when I saw the offer but a little confused there was no formal interview.

“I signed the contract, scanned it and sent it back within hours. When I realised it was fake it was heartbreaking.

“I am a single parent and that glimmer of hope for our future was completely shattered.”

Ms Lurye, from California, first began looking for work in the Emirates earlier this year.

On October 24, she received what appeared to be an official offer letter from the school along with the promise of a lucrative contract.

The role promised a monthly salary of Dh25,500, with an additional Dh3,600 a month for car rental and Dh2,203 a month for “entertainment and recreation”.

The letter appeared to be genuine, embossed with a Ministry of Interior stamp and school logo.

But Ms Lurye admits that she failed to spot the phone numbers listed on the document were all UAE mobiles rather than landlines.

And doubts started to creep in when she received a follow-up email asking her to pay $1,000 to a local travel agency.

In correspondence shared with The National, all communication went back and forth via a personal email address, instead of a company-affiliated address.

“When I called the number listed, the man was very polite and said the $1,000 would go towards flight and visa costs,” Ms Lurye said.

“He told me it would be credited back to me five days after starting my new job, but my friend was suspicious.”

After investigating the issue further and speaking to former colleagues who worked in Dubai, the reality hit Ms Lurye hard.

“My friend explained when you get a legal job offer in the UAE, the company takes care of all visa expenses,” she said.

“It was obviously a scam and I can see why they pray on people overseas. Our knowledge of the labour system is limited and many times we are ready to take a leap of faith to start a new life.”

Elaborate scams offering non-existent work in the UAE for upfront fees have been operating for years.

Victims are usually asked – illegally – for payment in order to help process visas that never materialise.

In the last year, Pamela Issa, principal at Abu Dhabi International School, said she had received “hundreds of emails” from people who received fake job offers from her school.

"It is really quite infuriating to have our name used for something like this," she told The National. "I can assure you this is a scam."

She said legitimate employers operate their own human resources departments or work through licensed, reputable agencies.

Eleanor Lurye, 38, was the victim of a job recruitment scam. Picture courtesy of Eleanor Lurye 
Eleanor Lurye, 38, was the victim of a job recruitment scam. Picture courtesy of Eleanor Lurye 

“After we receive a resume and shortlist candidates for a job role, they go through two formal interviews before any offer letter is sent,” she said.

“For candidates living overseas we proceed with video interviews. We have never and will never offer people a job without meeting them nor would we ask them for money to process documentation…that is against UAE law.”

Abu Dhabi Police regularly launch awareness campaigns to deter UAE residents from falling victim to recruitment scams.

In 2018, Brigadier Saeed Mohammad Al Kaabi, director of security information, said fraudsters usually targeted people abroad by taking personal details from CVs posted on job websites.

As in any case of fraud, police say individuals are partially responsibility to ensure the validity of any offer made, and to make sure the employment agency is legitimate.

But many people still fall victim to frauds due to the promise of more money and a better life.

According to the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation website, prospective employees living outside the country can verify the validity of visas they are issued by checking with the UAE embassy in their home country or by going online.

Genuine offer letters contain a numbered code from the ministry and candidates can log on to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs website for Dubai visas, or the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship for all other emirates.

“All legal job offer numbers start with (ST) then digits,” the Ministry states.