by N.D. George (CDCS Distinction)

Trade finance professionals looking for a change to a new job, beware: you might end up finding a "job" where you pay the salary to the employer and not the other way around.

Back in November 2009, my then employer had served me with a notice to the effect that I would retire from the bank's service at the close of May 2010. I should have retired a year earlier when I turned 60, but my term was extended for another year as a one-time exception to the bank's policy. As someone who is passionate about trade finance, I was not mentally prepared to call it a day and end my working life. I might retire from this particular bank, but why should I retire from working and allow my skills acquired over decades of experience to go unutilized? After all, I am not a sick old man, and my mental faculties are not in decline. I was also concerned as to what I would do back home to pass my time.

I thought someone might be looking for a person like me - some employer who valued the experience I would bring to its organization. I decided that I should look for a job and began a flurry of networking. I also posted my CV on various job websites.

One of my close friends who is very well connected was kind enough to tell me that one of the banks in Singapore was looking for an L/C professional at a very senior level and that I should send my CV to a certain headhunter. From the headhunter's website, I found that the job profile suited me perfectly. The headhunter was a well-known name, and I was sure he would be impressed by my CV and shortlist me. So, I sent my CV and waited.

Two weeks later I received an email from a corporation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia signed by the executive director of the corporation and with an office address of a prominent office tower in Singapore. The email stated that their headhunters had forwarded my CV to them, that they found that it suited their requirements, that they were shortlisting me and would contact me in due course. In the meantime I was asked to send my CV to them once again. This, I thought, must be the work of the Singaporean headhunter helping out its client in neighbouring Malaysia. Also, having been to Malaysia and seen the office tower myself, I thought if they had an office there, they were what they claimed to be - a global financial services company.


At the same time, I was also wondering why he was asking for my CV when the headhunter had it. Perhaps this was their way of verifying the CV to make sure they were communicating with the same person. So, I sent the CV.

I received a prompt reply thanking me for the CV and saying they would give it to their investigation department for verification. I tried to search their website and found that access to the site was restricted. I would have to be a client and have a password. To become a client and obtain a password, I would have to register myself as a client, something I felt that I should not do.

I shot out an email to the headhunter in Singapore, asking if he had referred my CV to this Malaysian company and, if so, could he give me some information about it. I received no reply. Simultaneously, I asked my internationally connected friend to find out more about the company through his Malaysian connections. Though my friend acted promptly, there was no immediate response from his contact in Malaysia.


After around two weeks, I received an email from the corporation's executive director advising me that their investigation department had completed the investigation and that his organization was pleased to make me an offer of employment in their global trade finance operations department. Further, the email said it was the company's policy not to call overseas candidates for interviews to Malaysia, as all recruitments were done based on the strength of the CV and its subsequent verification. He then proceeded to narrate the salient features of the contract - base salary of several thousand dollars per month plus free furnished housing, medical coverage, a car, club membership, schooling for children and a business class ticket for the employee and his family every six months, etc.

I thought to myself that this couldn't be true. Two years ago a genuine bank in Malaysia was interested in me and the maximum they could offer was only a little more than half the sum being offered to me now. When I said at the time that I wanted considerably more, the chief executive of that bank had told me that what I was asking was close to what he was making. In two years, I thought salaries could not have increased that much in Kuala Lumpur. If anything, they would have either stagnated or come down because of the global recession.

The email from the Malaysian corporation stated that an offer letter was attached and that upon my signing it, the offer would become an irrevocable and binding employment contract between their organization and me. I was asked to sign it and return it to them in 14 days; if not, the offer would be withdrawn.


I thought it odd that someone would offer me a job, regardless of the strength of my CV, without having a face-to-face conversation with me.

I sent an email to the Singapore headhunter to verify the job offer and kept the reading of the offer for later, as I had to go out on an errand. Again, there was no reply from the headhunter. Perhaps it was not practical for headhunters to reply to such incoming mails, and I did not pursue it further.

Upon opening the letter with the text of the offer, I found an official looking letterhead that bore a stamp and was signed by two persons in different handwritings. The usual tell-tale sign of fraud - bad English - was missing. Everything looked authentic. But then I noticed that it was not addressed to me but to someone else. That was enough for me to conclude that the offer was a fraud. They had sent me the same offer letter they had sent to many others, but forgot to change the addressee's name and address.

In the meantime, as coincidence would have it, the Malaysian contact of my friend responded, apologizing for taking such a long time to respond to my enquiry and stating that that this company was not located at the office tower indicated, one of the most prestigious office addresses in Malaysia.

Nature of the fraud

What was left was to find out how these guys made their money. The answer was found in one of the paragraphs of the lengthy offer letter. It stated that it was a Malaysian governmental requirement that every overseas recruitee be approved by the concerned ministry and that the recruitee be in possession of valid health insurance when he landed in Malaysia. Due to the large number of potential employees signing the agreement and then not showing up, which the offer said caused the company to lose around USD 2000 that it had spent on getting the paper work done with the ministry, the company had decided it would no longer pay for the work permit, but instead would reimburse the employee upon joining. This meant that they had to reluctantly ask me to fund the health insurance myself initially and that they would promptly reimburse me once I reported for duty.

They further stated that, due to the cumbersome nature of dealing with government departments, they had outsourced the work to an agency and for the agent to start work I should send an initial payment of USD 2000.00 by bank transfer. The "offer" also stated that the candidate would have to cover additional amounts in case the amount paid was found to be inadequate. A bank name with an account number followed.

If anyone was naive enough to sign the contract and send the requested amount of money, he might well be faced with a vanishing trick by the "executive director" and his company. A worse outcome would be to receive more calls for money, at first with a gentle reminder and later with a warning, that nonpayment was not an option in view of the irrevocable and binding nature of the contract.

These con artists are probably browsing the CVs posted on job websites and then offering "jobs" exactly suited to the profile in the CV. For all we know, they may have also developed some method to filter CVs from genuine headhunters.

These crooks are very clever. Trade finance job seekers, beware!

After decades working with several banks in India and the Middle East, N.D. George recently joined First Energy Bank, Manama, Bahrain as its Director, Trade Finance. The contents of this article are his personal views and do not represent those of his employer who accepts no responsibility for the same. His e-mail is