And Finally

Con me if you can

Desperate job seekers pay Rmb4 million for airport job – only it’s a scam


Chengdu airport scam was reminiscent of Di Caprio’s Catch Me If You Can

Would you pay Rmb140,000 ($21,948) for the chance to work at Chengdu’s new international airport?

You might be surprised to learn that at least 39 people did just that, thinking they had found a secret way to secure a long-term position at a state enterprise offering a reliable salary and decent social security benefits.

Sadly they were being duped by a team of scam artists who collected almost Rmb4 million ($627,000) before their ruse was rumbled.

Six people have been detained on suspicion of “contract fraud” for a scam that worked liked this.

A man named Yuan would drop into conversation that he knew people in the upper management at the city’s new airport and that, for a fee, he could get people hired there.

The job seekers would then pay an initial fee of Rmb70,000 and they would be called for an interview at a building at the old airport in Chengdu.

Yuan had access to the building through a former job there and he hired accomplices to pretend to be staff at the airport’s human resources department.

To boost the authenticity of the occasion, appropriate uniforms were made for the actors too.

After the interview – which Yuan promised was largely a formality in securing an eventual position – the applicants were told to get heath checks – just as one would if the hiring process was real.

The excited job seekers would then receive formal offers of employment from the new airport on a mocked-up letterhead and Yuan would request the balance of payment (another Rmb70,000) for pulling the strings to get them the job.

By the way, this was for a role that would probably only pay about Rmb6,000 a month.

However, when the applicants weren’t given start dates some grew concerned and reached out to Yuan. He responded by arranging a training day at a local hotel. It was only when the new airport moved closer to its opening date this summer that the new hires started to fear the worst, wondering why they still hadn’t been asked to begin work.

Hiring frauds aren’t uncommon in China. In 2012, a fake police academy was busted in Henan. The students thought they were paying to be trained by ex-cops and that they would graduate as fully qualified officers. In fact, the first time they met a real policeman at the school was the day it was raided and shut down.

Other scammers have been known to offer jobs at Shanghai Disneyland, or positions on newly-developed metro lines, and then take money for “health tests” which never result in a final offer.

Part of the reason these deceptions get traction is that people often rely on guanxi or connections to find jobs in China. But if you don’t have the personal network, the temptation is to pay as a means to edge in another way.

Throughout the construction of the new airport in Chengdu, authorities have warned jobseekers about the risks of improper recruitment schemes and recommended caution in cases where they were asking for payments or to hand over their ID cards.

In a statement published after the recent scam came to light the new Chengdu Tianfu International Airport said that it was still hiring for real roles and that all the current openings were posted on its official website. “Job seekers are requested not to put their faith in ‘connections’ and ‘back doors’ so as to avoid disappointment,” it added.

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