Last week, I was contacted via text message by someone who identified themselves as Andrew George. He wrote that he represented a company called Global Pharma, and that after reviewing my resume he would like to interview me for a possible work-from-home position with the company.
As he began to evade most of my questions, and relayed additional information about the positions, I began to have a strong suspicion that this was a scam. First of all, it was unusual for someone to contact me via text, when normally the inquiry comes via email or the phone. Second, their word choice and sentence construction was unusual. But, it was Thursday night, I was bored, and curious to see where this would lead me.
Mr. George described the roles as Call Center Representative, Customer Service Rep/Front Desk/Data Entry/Administrative Assistant, and Account Payroll Clerk. These were odd choices for a work from home position because they involved work that normally needs to be conducted inside an office.
He asked me which role I would be most qualified for, a question hiring managers typically asks when choosing candidates, and I told him Call Center Rep. Next, he sent me the nitty gritty type of information, such as how much it would pay and the schedule. I gathered from the name of the company that it must involve pharmaceuticals. I asked him what kind of service I would be supporting, and also what type of benefits were being offered, and he only deferred. “You will get to know all about the benefits during your briefing and interview,” he said.
His next message explained what would need to happen next. “The personnel Manager Mr. George Scott he will brief you more about the job position, duties and more about the company. The interview will be conducted via Google Hangout or Skype.” After I read this, I had a hard time getting past the irony of two people named Andrew George and George Scott working together in the same company. It reminded me of the Over, Under, and Roger scene from the movie “Airplane.”
I responded that I could be contacted via Google Hangouts during the interview. Mr. George said that I would be contacted at 9 a.m. for the interview by Mr. Scott. They asked me for my gmail address, which I provided, and instructed me to connect with Mr. Scott via the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who is Global Pharma?
After exchanging my information, I ran searches for the Pharma Global, and found a company with the same name which is based in Hong Kong. I know from different sources I’ve read that scammers will typically use the names of existing companies, but skew the information a little bit so that their offer will seem legitimate.
The website appears to be pretty standard, and could actually be for a real company. I decided to take my chances and tried submitting an inquiry via their contact us form asking for confirmation that these individuals actually do work for Pharma Global, but the form returned an error message when I attempted to submit it. So, not helpful.
Other searches returned discussions about scams which ma or may not have mentioned Phrama Global by name.
The next morning, at around ten before eight o’clock, three things happened. First, I received a phone call from the same number that had been texting me. I picked up, but nobody was at the other end. Next, I received a text message wishing me a good morning. I set 9 a.m. as the time for the interview via Google Hangouts.
But, when I sat down at my computer and entered in the email address that was provided to me, I discovered that George Scott had already attempted to connect a Hangout call with me at around ten minutes before eight o’clock. So, not only were they ready at the time to set a time for the interview, but they wanted to talk to me right at that moment, which was another strange thing.
Here is a transcript of our exchange via Google Hangouts:
MR. SCOTT: Nice to have you here. I believe you are here and ready for the job briefing and interview.?
ME: Yes. Who am I speaking to?
MR SCOTT: Before we proceed I would love to know more about you. That would help where to categorize you and how best to interview you. I am Mr. George Scott (54) the Human Resources Manager to (Global Pharma Pte Ltd) and I will be the one to brief and interview you more about the opening position, Please introduce you indicating your full names and Location.
ME: My name is XXXX and I live in XXXX, XXX.
This seemed uncharacteristic for an interview, because typically people already know my name and my location–it’s included on my resume. One could argue that this was for verification, but then I gave him a different name than what was on my resume or that I responded to via text message, so he should have stopped me right there.
MR. SCOTT: The name of the Company is (Global Pharma Pte Ltd) Just follow the briefing and you can ask questions when I am through. Let me know when you have finished reading every line. Quick response would be appreciated. You will be allowed to ask questions later. With each line just respond with “Done Reading” and YES/NO SIR when necessary..Okay
ME: Yes sir
MR. SCOTT: WHO WE ARE
[About Us text pasted from website]
ME: I read this on the website at http://gblpharma.com/about-us/
I wanted to make it very apparent that I had done my homework on the company, so I was very candid when I said that I had already read the About Us information on the Global Pharma website. It seemed strange that he would copy and paste the text into the chat instead of directing me to the page on the site–it was obvious where it had come from.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the request to respond “Yes/No Sir” to questions.
MR. SCOTT: Quality Policy:
[More Text pulled from the site]
ME: Done Reading
MR. SCOTT: Here are some interesting facts we think you’d like to know about the job and our company:
Soon we will be setting up a few branches near your location. That is why we are looking for 16 new hires to work from home. Once the new branches have been built at your location, you can either chose to work in the office or continue working from home.
You will be working online and from home, the working hours are flexible and you can chose to work from anywhere of your choice, the pay is $29 per hour during full working hours and the training is $14.5 and you will be getting your payment weekly or bi weekly via direct deposit or paycheck and the maximum amount you can work a week is 45 hours. If you are employed you are going to be working as a full employee and not an independent contractor….. Let me know if you are interested so we can proceed.
ME: I have some questions. Mr. George said that one of the roles was customer representative, but I am not clear yet on what kind of service I’ll be supporting. And, where in Texas will you be setting up the branch? I want to make sure that if this becomes long term I don’t have too long of a bus ride.
MR. SCOTT: Kindly hold on with your questions, you will be opportune to ask questions after your interview.. Okay.
ME: I don’t know if I am interested. You shared a lot of information, and I am trying to process it. Some of your message is confusing, too. In your first sentence, you said that you’ll be building a branch *near* my location, but then in the very next sentence you said “once the new branches have been built at your location.” So which is it? You asked me where I live when we started, so what are the chances that you would have already decided to build a branch nearby?
MR. SCOTT: Global pharma works in and out of United States
ME: Mr. George also told me that the position would include medical benefits and a company car. I was wondering if those were still included?
MR. SCOTT: All you need to know is on my Desk right now, kindly receive your briefing and interview because asking much questions
ME: What is on your desk? I apologize, I am just trying to fill in some gaps. Maybe it would be easier to discuss this over the phone? I could give you a call. Are you at the same number as Mr. George? And, if you hired me I could help you a lot with copy editing. I noticed a lot of misspellings and errors in word uses which could easily be caught. I just tried calling but nobody answered. I’ve been thinking about your offer, and while it sounds pretty good I am afraid that I’m going to need to pass. After reviewing your company’s website, and our exchange today, I feel like it wouldn’t be the right fit. I wish you the best of luck with your plans to expand your company.
MR. SCOTT: You ask so much questions and never give me a chance to interview you, am sorry this position has being awarded to someone else. Have a blessed day.
Even though I was confident that the job being offered was a scam, I didn’t want to say anything which would offend the interviewer. So, I tried to find the best way to decline the position. They, however, had already decided to cut me loose.
It would be easy to dismiss this exchange as a weak attempt to scam someone. After all, who would fall for something like this? But, the truth is that if someone was desperate enough for a job that they were willing to look past certain peculiarities, they might succumb to the temptation to attempt the job offer. In my heart, I wish that getting a new job could be as simple as accepting a job offer via Google Hangouts. But, after over twenty years of experience in the work world, I understand that things are not that simple.
Aside from the strange inconsistencies, the names, and the methods of communication, whoever was conducting the interview were pretty unprofessional about the whole exchange during the interview. It would be simple to reel someone in with an interview which felt more standard, but for some reason they were unwilling or unable to do that.