Telegram job scam: Middleman allegedly cheated over 80 students out of $7,000 in wages

PHOTO: Unsplash, Screengrab/Internet

From the latest deals to transport updates, it seems that there's a Telegram Channel for just about anything. Unfortunately, some are also using the app for more nefarious purposes.

A police report has been made against one middleman who has been accused of withholding over $7,000 in unpaid wages from at least 80 workers he had engaged via Telegram job advertisement channels, the police confirmed to AsiaOne today (Sept 17).

The man allegedly ran a Telegram job advertisement channel with a following of almost 20,000 before it was deleted. It would recruit part-time workers for events and various companies.

A screengrab of the now-defunct Telegram channel.PHOTO: Screengrab/Internet

Speaking to AsiaOne, one victim, who declined to be named, said that the man had engaged him to work at a music festival in June last year. Since then, he has not received his wages of about $92.

Another victim, a 23-year-old student who worked at the same festival, told Lianhe Wanbao that the man had also refused to pay him his wages of $124 after the event.

He resorted to filing a claim at the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT), which ruled in his favour after the man did not attend the hearing.

A court order for the man to pay the victim was subsequently issued, but the victim has yet to receive the money to date.

He told the Chinese evening daily, "I did not sign [an employment] contract, but I have a signed time card. The person in charge agreed to pay my wages in the following month. But after the supposed payday, there was no news from the middleman."

He knows of about 80 other part-time workers in the same predicament who are owed an estimated $7,000, he said.

AsiaOne has reached out to the music festival, but has not received a response at the time of publication.

When the victims, many of them students, approached the companies they had worked at, they were told that the pay had already been disbursed to the middleman.

But when they talked to the middleman, he claimed that he had not received payment from the companies in question, the Chinese daily reported.

The general manager of one of the companies, a local indoor playground, confirmed to AsiaOne today that they had engaged the man to manage over 20 of their part-timers around "August or September" last year.

They paid him a lump sum based on the workers' timesheets, which he was then supposed to distribute to them.

However, his services were terminated around November after the company received multiple complaints from the part-time workers regarding unpaid wages, she said.

She urged any affected workers to file a police report against the man and added that the company has been supporting at least three investigations "as and when they need more evidence".

The company will also support the affected workers in "whatever way [they] can" and is now managing its part-time workers in-house after the "bad experience", she said.

The man was a recruitment agent and not an employee of their company, she clarified.

A number of victims have since turned to public Instagram pages and Telegram channels to share their experiences and coordinate their legal efforts.

PHOTO: Screengrab/Internet

The moderator behind one such page told AsiaOne that a group of 36 victims "have just filed" a joint SCT claim.

According to the Ministry of Manpower, employment agreements can be in writing, verbal, expressed or implied. However, having a written contract will often minimise disputes on the agreed terms and conditions.

kimberlylim@asiaone.com