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January 10, 2018

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Employment Opportunity or scam?


- Shantanu Sahay, Partner [ Anand And Anand Advocates ]
- Aasish Somasi, Senior Associate [ Anand And Anand Advocates ]

ShantanuSahay-AasishSomasi

While law may always play catch-up with technology, it is critical to establish and foster institutions such as those under the Information Technology Act, 2000 to combat scams using technolegal solutions...

Indian youth is entering the workforce in large numbers and is poised to take over the wheels of the Indian economy. The lack of skilled labor, rising cost of living, and diminishing scope for transborder opportunities have proven fertile ground for criminal elements to devise elaborate scams to profit from the situation. From the typical “email” promising a job with a multinational company to the more elaborate scams involving domain name squatting and masking have started to emerge in alarming numbers.

The advent of the telecom revolution in India, clubbed with cheaper access to the Internet and computing technologies, has made the Internet generation a sitting duck for fake click-bait and fake email employment offers. The growing sophistication of scams which use techniques such as domain masking to appear as genuine emails from reputed companies demonstrates the urgency to discuss and address this problem head-on.

The Problem


The International Labour Organization (ILO) and Wall Street Journal estimate over 12 million Indians will be entering annually into skilled service and manufacturing sector jobs. On the other hand, the number of new jobs created is fewer than 5.5 million. This yawning chasm between new jobs created and the employable workforce has dramatically skewed supply-demand dynamics in favor of employers. While the government seeks to tackle the problem by promising to create over 400 million jobs by 2020, the underlying issue which allows for scams to run remains unattended.

The sophistication displayed by elements running these scams ranges from the use of deceptively similar names of well-known brands such as HCL, Tata, Infosys, etc. to using fake HR placement services to target susceptible individuals. Naukri.com, one of India’s largest online job portals in the country, reported that there are approximately 700 complaints that have been received by it every month from well-known companies about false job offers on the portal.

Such false reports on job portals are only the tip of the iceberg. In the case of HCL, the scam seems to have reached new proportions where a deceptively similar domain name mala fide registered and fabricated job offers were sent to aspirants. Even after a civil suit and resulting ex parte injunction, the scam continued whereby the domain name “HCL.com” was masked and emails appearing to originate from HCL.com were sent out to aspirants.

These job offers typically involve a small transaction fee either through a bank deposit or as in the case of HCL via Paytm which the job aspirant must pay to receive the offer letter and other details. The sophistication of the scam and its near-perfect execution allows perpetrators of the crime to disappear almost instantaneously.

With a bank of mobile phone numbers and access to technologies to mask and anonymize one’s activities through a Virtual Private Network, it is extremely difficult to trace the activity and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Institutionally, tackling such cybercrimes requires specialized skills and institutional backing to trace and prosecute perpetrators. The law in this respect provides for a cyber cell in most police departments as well as some trained officials to support and assist the police. Complaints filed under the Indian Penal Code for cheating, impersonation, and misappropriation of property have been typically handled by employing traditional investigation techniques.

However, for an already stretched and strained police force, the latest tools to counter the new wave of cybercrimes are still a distant dream. An alternative to the criminal justice system is the civil justice system, where larger and more affluent parties seek assistance of third-party investigation agencies to track and seek injunctive and pecuniary relief from courts. These investigations, while effective in identifying perpetrators, do little to make them accountable for their trespass against job aspirants. These suits enforce intellectual property rights such as trademark rights, reputation, and brand value of the company whose name has been misappropriated by perpetrators to mislead and scam job aspirants.

While such action helps promote confidence in the brand, the actions rarely bring about any substantial deterrence from such scams playing out in the future. If the number of complaints received by Naukri.com is any indication of the systemic problem faced by job aspirants, an alternative mechanism is required to be explored.

Disclaimer – The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author(s) and are purely informative in nature.


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