The Art of Avoiding Employment Scams in China

The Art of Avoiding Employment Scams in China
Dec 20, 2023 By Susie Gordon , eChinacities.com

You’ve probably heard of, and perhaps fallen foul of, some of the weird and wonderful scams that can be found in China. The legendary tea house ruse, the note-switching taxi driver, fake monks. Did you know there’s a whole dark world of employment scams in China, too? But fear not. There are some tried and tested ways to protect yourself from such deviants. Here we bring you the art of avoiding employment scams in China.

pay day anxiety

Online research

The internet has spawned a hell of a lot of scams but, in its defense, it’s also pretty good at uncovering them. A simple Google (or Baidu) search of a company’s name should bring up plenty of information; good, bad and potentially ugly. Do they have permanent premises? Are their email addresses official company ones, or generic Alimail? Any half-professional business should at least have company email addresses.

Try prefacing the company name with “scam” or “dodgy” to see if there is anything out there from disgruntled former employees. Dig up as much dirt as you can, but remember that former employees may not always be completely impartial or honest about why they left a job.

If the company’s website and social media channels don’t look quite right, or if they don’t have any at all, alarm bells should start to tinkle. If there are staff profiles on the website, do some reverse image searching or Google their names to see if these people are who they say they are and not just random pictures taken from the internet.

Real world research

Ask around among your friends and social media groups to see if anyone knows of the company or, better yet, has worked there. Word of mouth and reputation among expat scenes in China are very powerful.

Remember, however, that most companies are good at certain things and not so good at others; for example, they may pay decent salaries and offer good benefits but have a chaotic HR department. But knowledge is power, so the more you know, the better prepared you’ll be.

If it looks too good to be true

Don’t be vain enough to think you can get a massive salary for very little work. No offense, but if you’re not an experienced CEO, you’re not going to get a huge paycheck right off the bat in China these days.

Back in the era of “face jobs,” a foreign passport and face may have been all you needed to claim a beefy salary and perks in China, but not anymore. If you’re suspicious, do a search for average salaries offered for other roles at your level in your chosen profession, then compare and contrast. If some company you’ve never heard if is offering twice as much as a household brand, something is probably not right.

A fool and his money

… are soon parted, as the saying goes. Don’t be a fool. Never send money to anyone on the pretext of getting a job. As an employee, you should be the one getting the money, not the one giving it to your prospective employer, even if they insist it’s necessary for training materials or visa processing.

I was recently “offered" some editing work by an unscrupulous web company that expected me to pay them US$350 for a training manual. They said that if I bought and read the document they would guarantee me a steady flow of work. When I asked why they couldn’t just deduct the cost from my subsequent wages they said it was “against company policy.” Probably because the company policy is to rip people off!

Dont be pressured

Just like any scammer, a crooked company will want to pressure you in to making a decision quickly before you’ve had a chance to think it over and do due diligence. If a potential employer is insisting you sign a contract straight after the interview, don’t do it, even (and, actually, especially) if they tell you you’ll only get the highest salary if you sign today. Legitimate companies will give you some time to think about their offer; dodgy ones won’t want to give you a chance to read the small print or smell the BS.

Beware the middle men

It isn’t just dodgy employers you have to watch out for as an expat job seeker in China. Middlemen, like agents and recruiters, can turn out to be scammers, too. Some recruiters don’t actually have any contacts with the companies they claim to represent; they simply charge you for sending emails to their database in the hope that someone bites.

Likewise, agents for more casual but lucrative expat jobs, such as acting and modeling, often take a large cut of the payment, leaving you with a paltry score for your day’s work. Always ask to see the original offer/contract from the employer so you can make sure the agent is only taking a fair amount.

So what can you do if you’ve already fallen victim to an employment scam in China? It depends on the nature of the ruse and how far along in the scam you are. If you’ve signed a contract, you might need to hire a lawyer to help get you out of it or you could end up paying severance costs. If you’ve wired money, unfortunately it’s very unlikely that you’ll see it again.

Always remember, forewarned is forearmed. Use these tips and a degree of common sense, and you’ll hopefully avoid falling for employment scams in China.

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