SOCIETY

As crisis deepens, some see chance to milk desperate job seekers for cash

As Greece?s ranks of unemployed grow, promising employment is becoming a lucrative con or at least an opportunity to milk desperate job seekers for cash. Indeed, hundreds of fake agencies have sprung up all around the country, promising highly paying jobs and job security, which, at the end of the day they do not deliver on. And that?s not all: Every day, hundreds of posts appear on the Internet advertising jobs that don?t in fact exist.

As the crisis deepens and Greeks become more desperate, these phoney agencies are also increasingly advertising jobs abroad, especially in countries such as Germany and the UK. The Labor Ministry recently admitted that it receives dozens of calls a week from people complaining that they have been gypped by an ?employment agency.? The most vulnerable to the con are young people, as the jobless rate for the under-24s is fast approaching 50 percent, as well as foreign nationals living legally in Greece and looking to be employed as household help, companions for the elderly or childminders.

The con does not always work in the same way. There are companies that demand a fee to help the applicant find a job and never follow through. Others take money from applicants and put them in positions where the terms are not as promised; for example, their social security payments are not made.

Representatives of legitimate employment agencies warn that if a company asks for a down payment or a special fee, applicants should see this as an alarm bell, because according to the law, the employment agency is paid by the employer rather than the employee.

Marianna, from Athens, is 21 and has little work experience — a perfect victim for the con. She answered an ad and ended up in a hovel of a hotel on the German border with Austria.

?I called the number in the advertisement and they told me that they were looking for people to work in a Greek restaurant in Munich and that we (she went to Germany with her boyfriend) would get paid 2,000 euros a month each,? said Marianna, who declined to give her surname.

?We were inexperienced, young; we didn?t know any better,? she said. ?We asked about social security and taxes, and they said that it would all be sorted out once we got to Germany. Unfortunately we did not press the point. We were actually excited by the money we thought we?d be making,? Marianna admitted. A company representative told Marianna and her boyfriend that their only expenses would be the plane tickets to Munich.

?We got in touch with the owner of the restaurant in Germany, who told us that we would be staying in two rooms above the business, which, he said, was in Munich,? Marianna said.

Once they got there, though, the reality was very different. They ended up living in a dingy hotel 2 kilometers from the restaurant, where they earned less than 800 euros without insurance. After working enough hours to put together the 450 euros that they owed to the agency for its fee, they were fired.

The two young people returned to Greece and when they tried to call the company to complain, none of the numbers worked.