Irish engineer claims fake recruiter 'catfished' him out of job after contacting him on LinkedIn
'I swallowed the bait'
An engineer has said he was scammed into leaving his job in mainland Europe after he believes he was 'catfished' by a former colleague who assumed the identity of a recruiter on LinkedIn.
Sean Cleary, who has worked in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry for almost 25 years, began working in a contracted position for an engineering firm in Belgium in February 2012.
The Irishman - from Trim, Co Meath - said that three months after this job at a subsidiary of Hyde Engineering began, he believes he was scammed by a workmate into handing in his resignation to management at the Brussels-based site.
"The person had assumed a fake LinkedIn profile of a recruiter, who turned out to be an employee 'Martha' at Pfizer Australia," he told independent.ie.
"This fake recruiter offered me a position back at Pfizer Grange Castle in Clondalkin. And I swallowed the bait."
Mr Cleary said he gave a month's notice to his employers at the time but soon realised that there was no position waiting for him in Ireland.
Corresponding solely through email, never meeting nor speaking to this person, Mr Cleary said the fake recruiter postponed the start date repeatedly.
He said he was left without a job and regular income when he finally received a mail to tell him the job offer was no longer on the table, the effects of which he says he is still recovering from.
"I managed to track down the real Martha in Australia and we talked via Skype; she was horrified," he said.
"I met her in July 2013 after she and her partner returned to live in Ireland briefly after she got a job with the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) in Stephens Green."
A LinkedIn spokesperson told independent.ie that, while the company does not comment on individual cases, "there are millions of job opportunities listed on LinkedIn and incidents of job advert fraud are rare, but we take them extremely seriously".
"We have technical measures in place to take down fake job adverts before they are shown to members and when this type of activity is detected on LinkedIn, we work quickly to remove it.
"We also recommend members take simple precautions to protect themselves as they would elsewhere online. Job seekers should be on the lookout for any advert or interaction with a recruiter that seems suspicious, such as requests to provide financial information or perform any monetary transaction.
"We encourage our members to report any messages or postings they believe are scams, and to utilise our member help centre as a resource to protect themselves from online fraud.
Mr Cleary is currently working for Jacobs at BMS Cruiserath (Bristol-Myers Squibb), near Blanchardstown, but said that the experience has brought out the "inner detective in him" and made him "determined to seek justice".
"I lost about three to four months’ pay; there's no social welfare for freelance contractors and how do I explain what happened to me to a welfare inspector?
"The repercussions of what happened in July 2012 continue to affect me to this day, both in the pocket and in the head."
In documents seen by independent.ie, Mr Cleary has been in contact with his former employers and the company he believed he was offered a job from.
A report has also been filed to the garda and the Belgian police in relation to the incident.
While full investigations have been carried out by both the firm Mr Cleary previously worked for and by the Belgian police, no criminal or civil charges have ever been brought.