Teachers conned by false job adverts

Fraudsters advertise jobs at UAE schools online, then tell those 'hired' to share passport details.

Dubai, 24th January 2009.  The Dubai British School at Emirates Hills.  (Jeffrey E. Birteng / The National) *** Local Caption ***  JB01-DBritishS.jpg
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DUBAI // Several teachers overseas have fallen victim to an online job scam offering them work at reputable schools in the UAE.

The schools involved are now warning educators to investigate the authenticity of any employment offers by visiting their websites and contacting them directly.

Over the past year, the Dubai British School (DBS) has been approached by 20 people who have found online job advertisements that falsely used their name.

"Many of the victims email us to let us know that the name of the principal is being used or that they have become suspicious of the communications they are receiving," said Mark Ford, head of DBS.

He said this issue affected international schools around the world.

"We started to get a few suspicious emails in early 2009, which became more frequent by June 2009," added Mr Ford.

The scam targets job seekers applying for a position to teach English as a second language (ESL).

They are contacted directly by someone claiming to be the principal. On responding to the offer, they are asked to share their passport details and transfer money for processing work permits and rent.

Paul Coackley, the head of the British School Al Khubairat in the capital, said the school's name was used in similar fraud earlier this year.

"These scams are going on all the time online," he said. "We got a few emails from people to check out the authenticity of the offer. We do not advertise for ESL teachers."

Mr Coackley said they had referred the case to the police.

Allen Hermiston, 53, from Canada, saw an advertisement on an ESL website that looked "pretty official".

"When they asked for money, I looked up the school on the internet and contacted them," he said. "I did not send money but did give them personal information and my resume."

Other victims have wired more than Dh10,000 to the UAE as an "accommodation fee".

Javed M, an American, transferred Dh1,480 to Dubai for a work permit.

"They said it was also for the visa processing fee and it would be reimbursed to me with my first salary," he said. "I found the advert on a job website and applied to an email address provided by the website."

He said the fraudsters used the school's seal, letterhead and staff names.

"They sent me documents, like a letter from the Ministry of Labour, and a school appointment letter," said Mr Javed, who lives in Morocco.

He said he fell for the scam because he was desperate for a position in the Middle East.

"I was looking for a job in the UAE and Saudi Arabia because there are scores of English teacher jobs available with benefits and no taxes."

Mr Ford said warnings had been posted on the DBS website to prevent other teachers falling for the scams and the local authorities had been contacted.

"We have asked all victims where they saw the advertisement and contacted these websites to inform them about the scam and ask them to remove the advertisement," he added.

"When in doubt contact the school directly," said Mr Coackley. "And never send any money as it is unusual for any reputable organisation to ask for money up front."

Mr Ford said they never hire any teacher without an interview in person. "The job description, salary scale and any other employment information is discussed face to face.

"We never ask for the transfer of money to process visa applications prior to arrival."