The holidays are fast approaching and for many young people that means summer jobs: a chance to make some money and gain some valuable work experience.
However, people who have never had a job before may not realise a scam when they see one, and it’s easy to fall prey to dishonest employers.
Young Post spoke to Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups supervisor Gary Tang, chief convener with Youth Exchange Chu Ka-kin and someone from the Consumer Council, who asked not to be named, for advice on how to choose a job.
What job traps do young people typically fall into?
Tang: Common job traps include delayed salary payment, unreasonable penalties (such as having money deducted from pay for being late), being fired for no apparent reason, having to pay for a training course before starting work, and signing contracts with unfair terms.
Some jobseekers are employed as mystery shoppers – people who pose as a customer, buy something from a shop, then rate the level of customer service – and are asked by employers to borrow large sums of loan from money lenders or loan sharks to do the shopping. Despite being conned, it is ultimately the individuals themselves who are stuck with the debt.
Chu: Some interviews are conducted in fast food restaurants or parks, only for people to later find out the company they had applied to does not exist. Throughout the interview process, they also disclosed their personal information and bank account details, which can then be used by the for illegal purposes such as money laundering.
Be wary of any company that asks you to buy their products so that you can sell them on for commission. Often, these products aren’t worth much and are difficult to sell.
Consumer Council: Some scams ask you to pay a lot of money for training or magazine shoots, particularly for acting or modelling jobs. One case involved a victim surnamed Cheung who was tricked by someone posing as a talent scout who approached him in the street.
The scout invited Cheung to apply for a role in a film. Cheung went for an audition where he was criticised him for his inability to act. He was then asked to attend several free training courses, but he was forced to shell out HK$8,800 to produce and advertise his personal portfolio.
Cheung then got the job, but his salary was a total of HK$400. He didn’t get any training, either. When he demanded a refund for the cost of creating the portfolio, the company refused.
Cheung went to the local council with his case, and the company eventually gave him a 50 per cent refund.
Another case involved a jobseeker named Ip who was forced to pay HK$35,000 for a pet grooming course, plus a HK$3,000 reservation fee. She secured the job, which paid HK$15,000 a month.
After giving three lessons, Ip asked for an employment contract, but the company added many unfair terms which were not previously discussed. She eventually took the case to the Small Claims Tribunal where it is still ongoing.
Why are they an easy target?
Tang: Students are targeted mainly due to their lack of work experience. Most young people are not familiar with their rights or the Employment Ordinance.
Chu: When young people are desperate for summer jobs, they are less vigilant, and don’t spend time carefully considering their options. They worry that they won’t get the job if they don’t do what the company asks, like pay upfront or sign the first contract that is offered to them.
What should young people do?
Tang: Stay alert. Even if it’s just a summer job, a contract is mandatory. Before starting a job, you should always ask for an employment contract that clearly states the duties, work duration and income. Carefully read the terms to make sure they’re in line with the Employment Ordinance.
Don’t pay for anything before starting a job, and be wary of job adverts that offer lucrative packages without asking for any academic requirements or special skills. These are probably scams.
Chu: Don’t give out your personal data to unknown agencies. It’s important to do research on the company you’re interviewing for. This will mean you have a better understanding of the organisation’s background and the products or services it offers, as well as whether it’s a reputable company.
Some companies do approach potential applicants on the street, but you should be more wary of this type of approach and do your research to ensure it isn’t a scam.
You should also consult your parents, teachers or social workers before attending interviews or accepting a job offer.