After taking money from the candidates, the job agency switched off the listed numbers and stopped responding to mails.

Singapore nursing job scam unearthed Candidates from Kerala Karnataka TN cheated
news Fraud Thursday, March 22, 2018 - 17:41

31-year-old Nimmy Jose, a nurse from Kerala, walked into the Cochin International Airport, one day mid-February, all set to board an airplane to Singapore to join her new workplace. A job she had secured through a recruitment agency.

However, Nimmy soon realised that her visa was in fact fake and that she was cheated by the recruiting agency - Elite Professionals. This, after months of formalities, interviews and paying a sum of about Rs 60,000 in total to the recruiting agency based in New Delhi.

Nimmy soon realised that it was not just her, but several other people from Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, who had fallen victims to the visa fraud and lost thousands of rupees in the process. The 'recruitments' were made to Amydgala Nursing Home and Orange Valley Nursing Home, both of which, it turns out, do not exist at all.

A month after Elite Professionals cut off all contact with Nimmy and several others who applied for jobs through the agency and paid money, there are at least 10 complaints filed with the Kerala police in the matter. Victims have also reportedly filed complaints in Bengaluru and Tamil Nadu. Despite this, the victims are yet to receive any respite for their crisis.

How did the scam take place?

33-year-old Bijoy Sebastian, a native of Iritty in Kannur district, is one among the many people who was scammed by the company. Having worked in a hospital in Rajasthan for the past five years, he was looking to shift to Singapore.

Speaking to TNM, Bijoy, who is now unemployed, says that Elite Professionals had managed to effectively convince him that they were a legitimate agency. Having worked in the UK for about three years, it came as a rude shock for Bijoy when he realised he had fallen victim to the visa fraud.

"I had put up my resume on Naukri.com and it was in April last year that Elite Professionals got in touch with me and said my profile had been shortlisted. They said that their service was completely free. After the interview that took place the same month, they said that it will take 4 months for visa procedure to be done and after that, I was good to go," Bijoy says.

He adds that the agency had contacted him through phone calls and emails. While the agency had initially promised that their services were free, after sending the offer letters to the job seekers, they began demanding money.

"A sum of Rs 15,000 was initially paid as a caution deposit, this was supposed to be refundable. After the interview, they sent me a Foreign Identification Number (FIN) and sent me a link called checkthevisa.com. When I entered the FIN number in it, it showed all my details and looked legit. At one point, I went to an Singpore government website and entered the number, but it showed as invalid then. When I enquired, they said that I had to clear some dues, after which it would be sorted," Bijoy says.

In the months that followed, the agency allegedly demanded more money from the applicants, claiming that the visa rules had changed. Vinod, a nurse currently working in a private hospital in Bengaluru, paid nearly Rs 25,000 to the agency.

His wife, Renjani, a native of Bengaluru, tells TNM that the agency had been in touch with them for about 6 months, before they went incommunicado.

"They got in touch with us sometime in July and by September, a telephonic interview was done and we were told we will be given the offer letter. After the interview, they suddenly called up my husband and gave him just 2 hours to pay Rs 15,000. While we said we won't be able to pay up, we contacted them after a few days. Finally, they sent us an offer letter and instead of Vinod, they had entered the name as Vijay. So we refused to pay the money until they corrected this error. That process went on for a few weeks. Then there was so much delay and every time we enquired, they gave numerous explanations. Finally, it was only in February that we realised we had been fooled. They stopped contacting us, their numbers went off," Renjini says.

Nimmy's husband Titto Antony, who works in Bengaluru, says that the agency had a foolproof plan in place to dupe people.

"They never demanded any money initially, and so there was no reason to suspect any foul play. Plus, the website checkthevisa.com had photographs of Modi and the Singapore PM, and it looked very much like a government website. So did the websites of the hospital to which the recruitment was made. The hospital website had contact details, the location, job vacancy information, everything" Titto says.

Complaints

Since February, a number of victims have come together to form a group and are looking to take legal action against the agency. In Kerala, there are at least 15 complaints given to the police. Ponkunnam police in Kottayam confirmed to TNM that they have received 7 complaints in  the past one month. Two complaints, including that of Bijoy, were filed at the Kannur SP office.

However, no FIR has been registered in this matter yet.

According to the Ponkunnam police, the preliminary inquiry has been started based on the complaints."We have sent a request to the concerned police station in Delhi, seeking information about the company. We are yet to get an inquiry report from them.”.

Even as complaints to the police have failed to nab the members of the agency till now, the victims hope that their coordinated effort in bringing the culprits to book will work out.

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