How I almost got duped by an online recruiter

By on November 9, 2013

I have been trawling the web for job opportunities in recent weeks.  As I was checking my inbox, I realized that someone had sent me a job offer.  The offer includes a decent pay by Japan standards and work conditions seem normal. The email reads:

There was one problem.  I did not apply for the job.

Since the advent of social media, the way job seekers and headhunters behave has changed dramatically.   In the pre-Linkedin days, you will have sent a job application and CV addressed to just one company.  Nobody else has access to that information other than the company you submit it to.  With the growing popularity of Linkedin,  many headhunters today take their research online because of open access to people networks.

It was easy for me to assume that it could have been through Linkedin that they found me.  Quite suspicious that the initial contact offered vague information,  I consulted a friend who has had experience with headhunters.  He says, “ it is a standard practice for some recruiters to withhold the name of the company that’s hiring until they have the candidates’ full engagement.  Some companies simply do not want competitors to know.”

Convinced that this might be a genuine job opportunity, I then sent back a reply to  the “HR Manager” who did not sign his name. I indicated that I was interested in the job and he should send me more information.  Mr. HR replies back.  This time, with a name.  An English name.

The tone of the letter was quite professional and confident.   He informs me that they represent an assets management business based in Sweden with expansion plans in Japan.  He tells me too that the job being offered requires me to work from home for about 2-3 weeks while they await set up of a “representative” office in Tokyo.  He gave me a website address and a job description that prompted me to do some facts checking before jumping on the job offer.  After doing my homework, I learned that this was a recruitment scam.  Thanks to the mighty search engine and the help of a few concerned friends, I was able to save myself from what could have been a complete disaster.   Here’s what I did.

Search engine
I googled up the company name.  It took me to a Japanese blog site where people have been exchanging comments about the “dodgy” offer.  All of them claim to have received exactly the same offer that I did, confirming this was no genuine job.  I also learned that there were two identical websites with slightly similar names.  The domain was created two weeks before we all received the offer and the clone registration was done from Zimbabwe, Africa. To top it all, not one from the 6 members of the company has online presence which is odd for an assets management in business.

The trade office of Sweden provided me with the company’s financial information.  It turns out the company is a one-man operation with approximately one million yen in capital fund. The company also appears to be in the red in the last business year with an annual sales of less than a million yen.  An assets management company expanding in Japan with one million yen capital and six employees does not seem the company it claims to be.   The name of the registered CEO was different from the name on the website too.

Representative office
Setting up a representative office takes anywhere between 1 to 2 months.  Mr. HR says it will be set up in 2-3 weeks.  There won’t be an office in Japan.  The whole thing is a recruitment scam.

The giveaway
The job description reads:

•    you will be charged with routing our customers’ assets to applicable fund accounts as assigned to.
•    Keeping in contact with managers from Europe by e-mailing or calling them and making sure that our customers’ financial assets reach dedicated accounts.

If there is no company, there won’t be a  bank.  How else will they receive and move funds around if not through the victims’ personal bank account?  Essentially, this  is a money laundering scheme and could land the offender, as an accomplice, in jail.

The tricksters are very active in Japan.  Introduction letters are circulating in Japanese.  If you think you have received one, don’t fall for it.  Know the signs.

To find out more about recruitment scams, go to:

To check out registered businesses in Sweden, go to

About Mae Iida