By JESSICA GUERRERO
MORELIA, Michoacán — One aspect of the covid-19 pandemic and its subsequent global economic that has universal impacted countries around the world is worker desperation.
Here in Mexico, unemployment and underemployment have skyrocketed, and more than a million pay-rolled workers lost their job in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
And to make matters worse, now unscrupulous internet firms are cashing in on unemployed Mexican workers’ desperation, promising placements for nonexistent jobs in exchange for a finder’s fee.
On Tuesday, Sept. 21, at least 250 people were reported stranded at the Mexico City International Airport’s (AICM) main terminal, claiming that they had been scammed by an alleged job placement company with the promise of processing a visa for temporary employment and immigration to Ottawa, Canada.
According victims’ reports, an alleged representative of an international job placement company by the name of Sergio Portillo Briones had promised then work in Canada in exchange for a processing fee of roughly 5,000 pesos each, which would also cover their covid-19 testing and Canadian work visa.
The wannabe workers were told to report to the airport on Tuesday, where they would be quarantined for three days in a terminal hotel and then sent to Canada at their respective employer’s expense.
But when they arrived at the airport, Portillo Briones was nowhere to be found.
There was no international employment firm and no jobs in Canada.
The 250 would-be employees were left high and dry in the airport and Portillo Briones walked away with an estimated 1.2 million pesos.
Sadly, this was not an isolated case.
Fraudulent pay-for-employment scams abound on the internet, with fake companies offering high-paying jobs in the United States and Canada for so-called processing fees.
In January of this year, another massive fraud of this type was unveiled in the city of Hermosillo, located in northwestern Mexico, where at least a thousand people were scammed under a similar modus operandi by an alleged migration agency called Travel Work Canada, which had applicants pay 3,100 pesos to process their work visa papers.
The offered jobs were to be in the Canadian province of Québec, with an average salary of 23 Canadian dollars an hour, far higher than the minimun wage in Mexico.
But as in the case of Portillo Briones, the representatives of the Travel Work Canada agency disappeared overnight and their offices where they had been operating were shut down without prior notice.
So far, there has been no arrests made in either case, and the Mexican government’s response boils down to little more than “caveat emptor,” (buyer beware), or, in this case, “caveat opifex” (worker beware).