Beware: If a school, or its agent, reaches out to you to offer you a job, at a salary that seems too good to be true, the chances are it is too good to be true.
The tried and tested scam involves contact from a school offering a teaching or admin position in a school - usually with a great salary. It provides links to a web site that, superficially, looks very real with photos of students, mission statements, curriculum details - by and large everything you would expect to find on a web site representing a school.
You will be given a telephone number to call, as well as an email address. Call or email and you will get through to someone who will be very convincing, and who will assure you the job is real and yours for the taking.
Despite the scam being outed several times, it continues - and has been improved upon. Last week WhichSchoolAdvisor.com was contacted by a teacher from South Africa, Sarah Naby, who had just been offered a job at Al Ajbaan School.
Al Ajbaan School is a real school in the UAE, but without an official web site. Anyone doing due diligence, looking at TAMMs listing of UAE schools, would have had confirmed the school is a fully operational MoE based school in Abu Dhabi.
Dig deeper however and the email address of the school, the web site to back up the email, and even the voice behind the telephone number the potential victim is sent, have nothing to do with the real school.
Unlike many, more trusting, victims, Ms Naby called the number she had been given, and spoke to a Professor Zaed Adnan Hustafa (name changed), who claimed to be the head of HR. He confirmed it was "a real offer". Ms Naby then checked the number and email, and found they matched the details on its website.
What Ms Naby did not know at the time however was that Al Ajbaan School web site is a clone of the very real Abu Dhabi International (Pvt) School's web site - complete with the same pictures of the same students. See the two identical sites below.
The only thing that stopped Ms Naby falling for the scam was gut feel. "The salary was a bit high, she told us, "and in the employment offer there’s a travel agency that I needed to email the signed offer to - and they would sort the visas out."
When Ms Naby contacted the visa company she was told she would need to pay for Resident/Work permit papers, which were "USD 1,800 that is for single applicant, OR if you are coming with your family, you are advised to make only the payment of USD 3,050 which is the fees for Family Resident/Work Permit.
"You are to send the processing fee by Al Ansari, Cash Express Money, Moneygram or Western union Transfer in the name of our Accountant Cashier for immediate confirmation as to avoid further delay as time is limited..."
"As soon as you make payment scan to us a copy of the payment slip together with all processing requirements for confirmation purpose and for immediate commencement of your traveling papers process.
"NOTE: We have a mandate to procure your papers within a stipulated time and this is in line with our procurement policy. Make sure you submit all requirements for easy processing as we have a mandate from your sponsor / employer to complete the process within (12) Twelve working days and do not keep appointments more than 6 working days after first contact."
Fortunately, Ms Naby did not wire the money, but instead contacted WhichSchoolAdvisor.com. We did a check on the ADEK, TAMM web site, and found discrepancies in the school's telephone number (not only is the number different, the fake web site lists a mobile number), its email address, the fact that pictures on the site shows girls - and it is a boys school. Finally, we found the site it had been simply cloned from Abu Dhabi International (Pvt) School's web site.
Ms Naby has since informed ADEK of the scam. At the time of writing, however the fake web site is still live.
Ms Naby's tale is a clear warning to other teachers. Scamsters actively look for job seekers - and will trawl through the likes of LinkedIn.com, searching for possible victims to lure with offers that are difficult to ignore.
Even should this site be closed down, it is unlikely to be the end of the story.
In 2015, UAE weekly newspaper XPRESS broke the story of Howard International School that had similarly duped teachers, with a fake web site, an email offering a lucrative job offer, and up front visa payment requirements. The Howard International site has since stopped operating, but the Al Ajbaan School scam demonstrates that it is much easier to close down a web site, than it is to close down the scam itself...