Hospitality workers overseas have fallen victim to a jobs scam involving a website advertising non-existent positions at the five-star Hotel Verta by Rhombus in London.
Applicants have been offered jobs at the hotel and asked to pay £400 to process immigration documents, after applying for positions via fraudulent job search sites, which are believed to be based in the Far East. It is not known how many people have fallen victim to the scam, but one woman from Romania arrived at the 70-bedroom hotel in Battersea to start work at a fictional job.
Another hopeful candidate in the Philippines contacted Caterer and Hotelkeeper after he became suspicious about being asked to transfer money in advance of taking up a job he had been offered at Verta as a "food and beverage team member" on a purported net monthly salary of £3,050. On being told that the job offer was fictional, the applicant said he felt "disappointed and hopeless".
The hotel, which last year went into administration following the collapse of Von Essen Hotels, has now posted a warning on its website urging victims not to provide personal data or money to secure work and residence permits.
Lengthy e-mails, which have been sent to the victims, use the hotel's old logo and outline arrangements regarding a potential new working life in London, with details of accommodation, relocation plans and holiday entitlements. Correspondence has also been sent to victims, claiming to represent London immigration consultancy Emigra. UK country manager for Emigra, Paul Jones, said the company was aware of the scam, having been contacted by two victims, and had reported the crime to the police and the Foreign Office. "It appears that false websites have been set up in the name of Hotel Verta and Emigra, which has helped create a convincing story," he said.
Anna Asimakopoulou, who was appointed hotel manager of Verta after the property was sold in December 2011 to property company Woodlon, said she has reported the matter to the police and the Home Office. However, she believes little can be done to combat the crime.
"We want people to know that we would never ever offer jobs via an email, without some form of an interview," she explained. "Jobs at Verta are only advertised on reputable UK-based websites."
Asimakopoulou said she had no idea why Verta - now managed by the Hong Kong-based Rhombus International Hotels Group - had been targeted, but suggested that the fraud could have been carried out by a former employee of the hotel as the correspondence with the victims had referred to ex-members of staff. "Or maybe the information was obtained from the internet, which is so easy to do these days," she added.
Deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, Martin Couchman, said the scam impacting Hotel Verta is one that crops up from time to time and causes "great annoyance" to members.
"With the huge changes in immigration policy in recent years, hotels in the UK are unable to offer jobs to candidates outside the EU unless they are a general manager or an executive chef," explained Couchman.
"Once the UK employed up to 7,000 chefs a year from outside the EU, but now the number is under 100 annually. However, the difficulty is getting this message across to potential candidates overseas so that they don't become victims of these scams."
By Janet Harmer
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