Employment fraud in the country is neither new nor small, but its prospects have never looked brighter.
On july 1, a few days after a woman in India registered for an account on the careers site Naukri.com and uploaded a resume, a recruiter called her: One of the country’s leading real-estate companies was hiring for a senior position, and more details would follow soon.
The woman had posted her details on the site, whose name means “job” in Hindi, because she feared losing her current role as a mechanical engineer. The coronavirus pandemic was in full swing, and India’s caseload was increasing fast. A brutal weeks-long lockdown had hammered businesses, throwing huge numbers of people out of work, with data later showing that in the three months immediately preceding the recruiter’s phone call, India’s economy had contracted by 23.9 percent. The national capital, New Delhi, where she lived, had been particularly badly affected.
Later that week, a human-resources manager at the real-estate company called, as promised. The job was hers, if she wanted it, and would begin the following month. All that was required was a show of commitment in the form of a security fee, which would be refunded once she started in her new role. The initial sum was 680,000 rupees, or about $9,200. Though such demands are rare in India, she was worried about losing her job, so she agreed, transferring the funds. Over the following days, the company asked for another deposit, to professionally verify her credentials and arrange for top-grade work equipment.