How does this scam work?
May 15, 2015 8:49 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend almost got scammed by a recruiter who said he would get him a job on a ferry in Europe. How does this scam work? I'm also a little worried that this person now has our personal information.

My boyfriend and I live in Honduras. He has been trying to find a seasonal job on some type of ship or boat. A friend of his was also trying to find a similar job and gave him the phone number and email address of a person who said he was a recruiter for a ferry company in Europe. The recruiter asked for his resume, various maritime certificates, and sent him an application to fill out and a medical form to be filled out by a doctor.

My boyfriend sent him all that information and received a contract. My boyfriend signed the contract and sent it back to him. He was also supposed to deposit $950 into a local bank account. The recruiter said this money would be used to purchase the airplane ticket and would be reimbursed after three days working aboard the ferry. In the email, he also stated that the money needed to be deposited before 3pm. At this point, I started getting a very bad feeling about this deal, started looking up things online and ultimately emailed the ferry company directly. They confirmed that the contract was not an official document.

What I'm wondering is how this scam works. My boyfriend's friend actually did go as far as depositing the money into the account and the recruiter gave him the flight confirmation number over the phone. Looking on the airline's website, we can see that he has a flight booked in his name with that confirmation number. The flight isn't until a week from now, so the recruiter could cancel the flight between now and then and get his money back. What is likely to happen?

Also, on the application form, my boyfriend had to include personal information and listed me as his emergency contact. What could this "recruiter" do with our information? He has my name, email address, phone number, mailing address. He also has a copy of my boyfriend's passport. He doesn't have any of our financial information. Should I contact my bank? The police here isn't very useful, but maybe we should still go and file a report just to have documentation if something comes up in the future?
posted by Lingasol to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The real question here is, does the ferry company actually do business with this recruiter? They say it's not an official doc, but have they even heard of this recruiter? Do they see this as a common practice?

A scam like this would work how you think it will -- book a flight, take your money, cancel the flight, keep the refund. They'll use personal information to continue to reach out to you in order to string you along and continue making requests for small "fees." Or, they'll just steal the info for other purposes, such as selling the maritime certs or passport info for someone else to use.

But I'd start with the ferry company. Is this even a scam at all?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:00 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't know about this scam in particular, but never, ever give money to a recruiter. It's as good as gone, and you probably won't have a claim.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:00 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm a recruiter though I don't work with the maritime industry or anywhere near your jurisdiction. I've never asked for any money from a potential candidate and nor has any other legitimate recruiter I've known.

That being said, as a recruiter I get money by presenting wonderful candidates to my clients and having those candidates be hired by them. If a candidate got hired and therefore got me a contract I would do whatever I could to make sure they would get to the client. If the way to get them to a client is via plane so be it.

However if I were to do this, I would simply ask them to book the flight themselves and give me the booking info. I don't see the point of asking someone to give me money so that I can book a flight for them....unless I planned on stealing it in some way. My guess is they plan on canceling the flight OR the flight is real, and it didn't cost anywhere near $950 giving them the chance to pocket the difference.

Even if the flight is real and even if they don't cancel it, I would do as Cool Daddy says and get confirmation from the company. Ask for their HR department because this is the dept that usually deals with recruiters and hiring contracts. God forbid your husband takes this flight only to end up on some pirate ship where he's held captive and being held for ransome. (That's a REAL stretch of the imagination, but better safe than sorry right?)
posted by rancher at 9:33 AM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

what does "not an official document" mean?? Does it mean the ferry company isn't filling roles through this recruiter and that they have no intention of hiring your boyfriend?

If he has a job with them, then the guy's legit although probably pocketing the difference between the flight cost and the $950. If he hasn't got a job, then he shouldn't get on the plane, and he should call the police.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:19 AM on May 15, 2015

Response by poster: Just a quick reply to clarify the email I received from the ferry company.

In the email I sent them, I included the recruiter's name, his email address, and the name of the company he works for. Although, the email address he uses is just a gmail address, not one that ends with I also included the actual contract as an attachment.

The reply I received from the ferry company just said "I can confirm that this is not an official Ferry Company document." They put "this is not an official Ferry Company" part in bold and underlined it. They didn't say anything about the actual recruiter or his company. However, I think if he were someone they work with, they would have replied with "Yes, this person is a recruiter we work with and the attached contract is valid" or something similar.
posted by Lingasol at 10:32 AM on May 15, 2015

I think in that case it's safe to say that this is definitely a scam. I'm assuming the plane ticket is under your boyfriend's name? Maybe if he calls the airline and describes what's going on they might be able to help in some way. Perhaps you can find out how the "recruiter" paid for the ticket. If he paid via his own credit card you could possibly get his real information and perhaps get authorities involved. At the very least the airline might just put a block on him so he can't do more of this to anyone else in the future.
posted by rancher at 1:01 PM on May 15, 2015

If you can see the flight online you should be able to see whether it is a refundable flight. If it is... then you may consider that suspicious because they're typically 3 or 4 times the normal cost.

Note though that many airlines (US carriers at least) allow you to book any flight and then cancel within 24 hours at no penalty. Perhaps that's why they want the money deposited before 3pm, so they can cancel the flight before that deadline.
posted by NailsTheCat at 2:04 PM on May 15, 2015

The "foreign job" scam is pretty simple:

Once you get there, they will cook up a story about the job fell through, and you had to work some scut job nowhere close to what was promised... then they steal your passport and you're now undocumented, don't speak the language, and basically f***ed six ways to Sunday. AND you'll be watched like a hawk, virtually kidnapped and held prisoner. Then they make up stories to your relatives that they need bail money because so and so was arrested.
posted by kschang at 2:22 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Good lord, kschang is right. This is the male version of the Russian story.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:27 PM on May 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The FTC offers information about signs of a job scam, including:
They may say they’ve got a job waiting, or guarantee to place you in a job, if you just pay a fee for certification, training materials, or their expenses placing you with a company. But after you pay, the job doesn’t materialize. Employers and employment firms shouldn’t ask you to pay for the promise of a job.
The FTC also has an article about 10 Ways To Avoid Fraud, which includes:
Never pay fees first for the promise of a big pay-off later — whether it’s for a loan, a job, a grant or a so-called prize.
If you think you may have been scammed:

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. If you are outside the U.S., file a complaint at

Visit, where you’ll find out how to minimize your risk of identity theft.

Report scams to your state Attorney General.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:08 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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