I apologize for the long post, but that’s what it take to describe the situation.
Back at the beginning of March I was contacted by a contracting agency about possible full time web development work. It’s actually a contract to hire position, meaning that you start as an employee of the contracting firm and eventually, if the employer likes you, you become a full time employee.
I had two phone interviews with the employer in early March. The recruiter told me that they liked me but had to wait to see if they’d have the budget to hire me.
A couple of weeks ago the recruiter contacted me to see if I would be interested in a face to face interview. I agreed. Afterwards the recruiter again contacted me this time with a coding exercise that they wanted me to do. I finished and emailed the exercise and was told that they wanted me to come in for another face to face, and to discuss the exercise with one of their coders.
This seemed to go well, then yesterday I received an email saying that they were interested in moving forward and could I start Wednesday of next week. I agreed to this.
Based on this I tentatively scheduled an appointment with a lawyer for the day before; Tuesday. I had been planning this appointment for a week or so and realized that I’d better get it done before my weekdays were taken up by full time employment. It’s important that I take care of it for reasons not relevant to this post.
Then the recruiter contacted me and asked if I could start Tuesday instead, as the employer wanted me to overlap with the last 4 days of a contractor who was leaving so that he could show me what he was doing. I told him that this could be difficult because I had already arranged my schedule based on the date I was first given, but that I could change my plans if absolutely necessary. He replied that it would be fine if I started Wednesday.
Then this evening he contacted me again and asked if there was any way at all that I could start Tuesday and that he’d increase my hourly rate by $3 if I could do so. I agreed, both because of the money and because it was obvious that it was important to the employer and I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. (I’ll figure out the lawyer thing later).
Then at 9:45 this evening (he’s a couple of hours behind me) I received this from the recruiter: (I’ve changed the names, except mine. The spelling and grammar are verbatim.)
Okay, I’ve held positions in the past where I’ve bought and then expensed business necessities on a regular basis, so this isn’t totally off the wall as a business practice, but a last minute request, complete with dubious excuses, that a new employee show up on the first day with over a thousand dollars of equipment purchased at his own expense set off some alarm bells. (I’m envisioning myself showing up Tuesday with the equipment, and then showing up Wednesday to find a locked and empty office and never being reimbursed for the equipment, as well as being out of a job.)
Add to that the willingness to increase my salary by over $6,000 a year if I would show up a day early, and that the office I visited had a number of seemingly unused computers sitting around and it starts to smell pretty bad.
I responded and said that I simply wasn’t able to make such a purchase at this time (not exactly true) and that he could order and pay for the equipment online to be overnighted or picked up at a local Apple store. So far he hasn’t responded.
Admittedly it seems like an odd scam. They string you along for over a month, then rent some attractive office space in an office complex, install a number of working computers, have you meet several people in that office, then have you do a coding test and then discuss it with an obviously technically competent person, all to scam a MacBook and some peripherals.
There are oddities that point to “scam”, and things that would seem to make it a pointless scam that costs more to pull off than what they’d gain, especially when that gain would be divided among several people.
My plan at this point is to proceed as if it’s a real job offer, in case it is, but to NOT purchase their equipment for them since there are alternative ways for them to do that themselves.
Am I being paranoid? Am I risking a real job because of that paranoia? I was once a victim of identity theft. It makes you vigilant.