By Liu Meng
Winter vacation is a perfect opportunity to earn some quick cash, for both students and fake employment agencies.
This month, a Zhengzhou-based agency named "Zhongguo Qingchun Jiayouwang" swindled hundreds of students out of some 30,000 yuan ($4,395) by charging 150-200 yuan in dues to belong to the agency's "member association," claiming their members"would have priority to part-time job opportunities.
Liang Shuyuan, a digital art design freshman at Henan Radio and Television University, said she found out about the company from a flyer handed out at her university in November, and ultimately paid 200 yuan to sign on. But when she came looking for a part-time job this month, the company had already pulled stakes.
"They prey on our desperation for part-time work, taking the few months before our winter holiday to make a killing and then disappear," said Liang.
These fly-by-night companies not only scam for fees, but sometimes also attempt to lure students into illegal operations, with ads like "Personal assistant (PA) needed, earn 10,000 yuan a month" posted on campuses all over the country. However, many of these "opportunities" turn out to be much different than advertised.
As reported in Jiangsu-based Yangzhou Evening News, an ad posted at a local university looking for "a part-time PA with an excellent figure" was later discovered to be hiring female escorts.
According to a student who had answered the ad and wishes to remain anonymous, the employer said that their ideal candidate should be "open-minded," as the job entails accompanying clients, or even being their "lovers" if requested.
Know the scam
Shen Yue, a lawyer at Beijing-based Huicheng Law Firm versed in prosecuting these kinds of operations, lays out an example of how these "black" agencies cheat inexperienced students, usually working in a multi stage operation.
"Agencies lure students by claiming they have connections with companies in immediate need for staff. In order to give their operation a legitimate appearance, they boast relationships with several small companies in the area which in reality have no intention of hiring," explained Shen.
"After the agency collects their fees, these companies suddenly claim to 'have just employed the needed number of staff,' and then get a cut from the agency," he said.
Shen also provided some analysis as to the reasons why students still frequently fall victim and what makes them such tempting targets.
"First, with nearly no social experience and not fully understanding their rights, students usually never think to sign contracts with their part-time employers in order to protect themselves," explained Shen.
Also there is little done by the universities to stop these operations from infiltrating their student population.
"At many universities there is little monitoring of the content of ads posted on campus or oversight as to verifying their information," Shen said.
Most strikingly, there is little recourse in the Chinese legal system for students working part time.
"Labor laws in China do not address college students taking part-time jobs. If student want to protect their interests, they have to appeal to the local courts. However, most working students are not willing to spend their time and energy in dealing with such a complicated and lengthy process, so most choose to cut their losses."
On the lookout
However, there are still ways for students to protect themselves and determine the legitimacy of an agency.
"Be wary of 'one desk, one telephone, one employee' operations. Ask to see whether they have the necessary business operating licenses or accredited qualifications before you hand over any money," said Shen.
"Also, be cautious of agencies that charge money upon first consultation or ask you to leave your ID card. Students should keep in mind that both employers and agencies have no right to pre-charge for a deposit or other expenses," he added.