Newly trained professionals need to be cautious of paying in 'fees' to professional bodies in order to secure jobs by paying such fees to the 'employer'. This scam has been highlighted by recent non-industry persons attempting to extort such fees from graduates.
"This is a highly irregular practice that needs to be flagged as a matter of priority," says Ina van der Merwe, CEO of South Africa's leading background screening company, Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE).
In the vast majority of cases, professional industry bodies recruit students during their final year of study. Registration fees are payable directly to the organisation concerned and no third parties are involved in the process. Memberships and registrations
MIE is able to verify individual memberships and registrations, but improper and irregular behaviour by prospective employers requires vigilance and reporting. "Unless people come forward, there is a very real risk to the credibility and integrity of the job creation economy," says van der Merwe.
MIE decided to raise the alarm after it was approached by a final year accounting student regarding the legitimacy of a job offer that required the payment of R849.37 into the bank account of the prospective employer, allegedly for registration with the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA). The matter was brought to the attention of SAIPA immediately, which responded as follows:
"An individual by the name of David Bongani Msomi is offering final year students accounting positions at a firm called Nemcorp. The prerequisite for joining Nemcorp is the payment of a fee, ostensibly to register with SAIPA.
"SAIPA wishes to distance itself from both Msomi and Nemcorp. We have no knowledge of said individual or firm.
"SAIPA does not instruct its members to collect any money on its behalf.
"All money due to SAIPA is payable into a SAIPA bank account.
"We wish to issue a warning to members of the public: do not pay any money to any individual claiming to act on behalf of SAIPA." Further investigations
The association communicated the risk to members and placed a notice on its website. Further investigations are also underway.
"According to SAQA, 40 professional industry bodies are recognised in South Africa, spanning a wide variety of industry sectors. This offers opportunities for unscrupulous individuals to prey on the vulnerability of unemployed professionals, especially first time job seekers who may not be aware of the modus operandi in their profession. Given the number of people who apply per vacancy, the capacity to defraud is huge."
Van der Merwe suggests that candidates should contact their respective professional industry bodies to verify the authenticity of any unusual requests from prospective employers before paying any money whatsoever. Where there appears to be fraud, the professional industry body must report the matter to its members, as well as the relevant authorities, including the police. MIE will be keeping a close eye on the situation moving forward.