companies that pay you to be a fraudulent hire at a different company

Remember the saga last year where the person who showed up to do the job wasn’t the same person who interviewed for it? Wondering how they pulled that off?

A reader recently forwarded me an email her spouse received from a company whose entire business model seems to be that they’ll pay you to get fraudulently hired for jobs that you then (mostly) don’t actually work. Read on.

Hi [redacted],

Hope all is well with you. This is [redacted], the CEO of [redacted company name], a software development company based in Atlanta. Nowadays, we are receiving an overwhelming number of offers, and we are experiencing a lack of talented resources who can effectively communicate with clients.

We see that you are a developer with expertise that matches our needs. We are interested in offering you a non-stop ongoing contract, which is flexible based on your availability.

Your responsibilities will include taking calls with recruiters, HR managers, or teams before and after securing a job. You will be representing yourself on a call, and the actual development work will be delivered by [redacted company name]. We will be responsible for handling everything else and also assist you with every call.

Regarding compensation for you to speak on interviews (that we will assist you to pass), we will pay you on an hourly basis until we win a job. Once we secure a job, you will be expected to take a daily or a weekly scrum meeting, depending on their team culture. You will take the 25% of income from the job for taking these calls.

Given our ability to manage multiple jobs at once, if you handle calls for multiple jobs, this position offers you an exciting and stable income.

I am interested in speaking with you to discuss this partnership further.

Well then.

{ 300 comments… read them below }

    1. Katydid*

      Sounds like a scam to get personal information. Just wait; soon they’ll say they need all your financial info to pay you.

    2. Warriors Princess Xena*

      My gasts are flabbered.

      I’ve had some scam/spam emails roll into my inbox, but this one’s new and special.

      1. gnome*

        Thanks for sharing it, I remembered this post too but couldn’t find it anymore, so I’m glad to see it mentioned!

      2. Mangled Metaphor*

        Possibly the scariest part (for me) was one of the comments at the bottom of the article pointing out that – even aside from any employment/tax fraud or whatever – the fake developers are doing real work, and that real work is highly suspect. Ransomware, back-doors, widescale data harvesting. It’s bigger than just individuals.

    1. Alrighty then*

      To cross-code, maybe NAICs: 541612–Human Resources Consulting Services? It doesn’t say that it has to be ethical…

  1. Not a Real Giraffe*

    I have sooooooo many questions about how this would work, but I can’t wrap my head around the ins and out of filing taxes for this kind of arrangement.

        1. CarlEatsShoes*

          Yes. Side note: I’ve been a divorce lawyer for decades, and, basically, I’ve learned that I’m the only person not committing tax fraud.

    1. Stoney Lonesome*

      I didn’t even think about that until I read your comment! Would the person accepting the jobs be committing tax fraud in some way? How does the paycheck work? Do you just set up direct deposit and the account info is the scam company’s? What do you do with the W-2 you get from the company being scammed?

      1. Kevin Sours*

        In short, not unless they choose to. There is a process to report illegal income to the IRS to avoid tax fraud.

      2. Katydid*

        Pretty sure they’re scamming the people they’re pretending to hire. Likely it’s the latest identity theft theme.

      3. She of Many Hats*

        Or you’re listed as a (1099?) contract worker responsible for all your own tax reporting & payments.

        1. CarlEatsShoes*

          Ding ding ding!
          And what are you supposed to tell the IRS? “Oh, I didn’t even get the money, I was part of a scam to rip off an employer”

      4. Hell in a Handbasket*

        My guess is that the person is hired as a contractor for Sleazy Software, Inc. So the business would be paying SSI and SSI would pay 25% to the person accepting the job (which would be reportable income).

      5. Small World*

        I actually work for a CPA firm & we had a client this past year who received 2 1099’s from 2 different companies that he did not work at. We were able to contact one of the companies & determined that they had employed an individual with his name/address/ssn to do programming for them. To make it more interesting, this was some sort of government contract, dealing with background checks, security clearance, etc. The individual I spoke with had spoken by phone with the individual, very happy with their work. The really interesting thing is that our client is mentally incapable of doing the type of work being paid for. We assumed it was some sort of identity theft issue. Months later, still dealing with trying to get this resolved as the IRS believes he was paid for a job & wants their taxes.

        1. Phony Genius*

          Depending on how many people are involved in this operation, the RICO Act may even apply.

          1. CarlEatsShoes*

            I’m guessing these people (the ringleaders, not the interviewees) are not based in the US.

    2. Argyle Hats*

      For the employee or for the company? Either way, I think it works the same way as it would for any other company. If you are an employee or contractor, you get a W-2 or 1099, and you file taxes the usual way. If you are the company, you pay your employees/contractors, and you file taxes the usual way.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        Yes, but the Employee will get a W-2 for a certain salary, let’s say $100k. S/he’s not really working there and has a secret arrangement with Redacted Company so that s/he’s really only earning $25k of that salary. But now s/he’s being taxed on that full $100k and the Redacted Company, who’s getting the bulk of the salary, is not getting taxed at it all.

        Meanwhile, you’re also an “employee” of Redacted Company, who somehow gets the money from your fake-employer salary, presumably from a direct deposit account, and then gives you a cut. Are you now also taxed on that 25% cut?

        1. Argyle Hats*

          Nah. My guess is, Jane gets paid $1,923/wk by Acme Software Company. She is contracted with Apex Ringers to pay them $1,442/wk. Jane gets taxed on her salary, Apex gets taxed on what she pays them.

          Maybe Jane can even deduct what she pays Apex as a business expense.

        2. Marcy Marketer*

          It’s actually even worse because the person who was “hired” doesn’t even know anyone is using his name/social.

          The “interviewee” gets paid hourly but doesn’t have to report it to the IRS and the company doesn’t have their real name or social.

          The company puts their bank information and gets the full direct deposit. And then the poor person they are impersonating gets the tax bill.

      2. Argyle Hats*

        Thinking more about it, I bet the “employee” signs some kind of contract with them and pays a fee, ie, 75% of their paycheck from the company, to [redacted]. So the company files taxes based on income from contracts.

        IANAL, but I don’t think any of this is actually illegal. It might be fraudulent in the colloquial sense, and your tuchus will lose that developer job if they find out, but I am not sure anything else about it is actionable from a legal viewpoint.

        1. Sloanicota*

          This is the only way it makes sense to me, unless the company is supplying an account associated with “your” name and an social security number that’s not your own to use (EG, fraud). Otherwise, it seems to me your new employer will notice they’re not paying you, the person they hired. If it does go through your account and then you pay back this other company a) that seems like a pretty risky business model for them? and b) they’d better be handling the tax portion of it somehow on those eight jobs “you’re” working.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          It might be fraudulent between the employee and the employer, but it’s certainly fraud against the customer, in that the person they hire is not doing the work, and is kept from knowing who actually is (and thus, cannot do any kind of vetting of them).

        3. Pat*

          I guess if one is willing to do something this shady, one might not worry too much about their professional reputation, which would surely take a hit if any/all of this was found out. But that was my first thought – how could one possibly pull this off and still maintain work connections and relationships?

          1. An Honest Nudibranch*

            Or do code reviews! Like at some point or another, a coworker will ask them specific questions about their code. Not a lot of dev environments work via “everyone does things in an isolated bubble and announce what they did via SCRUM.”

            What are they going to do, summon Shady Company to talk directly into their ears every time a coworker tries to set up an unscheduled Zoom call to chase an emerging bug or confirm their respective won’t stomp on each other?

        4. Kevin Sours*

          Also not a lawyer, but making false representations in exchange for money is, at the very least, sailing very close to the wind. Even if it falls short of criminal charges, I’m fairly confident that the hiring company would have grounds to take action if they can show damages (for instance proprietary information was disclosed to unknown third parties — which almost certainly happens here)

    3. DD*

      If you hire in as an independent contractor (1099) could you maybe deduct the 75% as a business expense? Not a tax professional here.

    4. ina*

      The company doesn’t care about the individuals or the other companies taxes, as long as they get their own cut. The perks of being a middle man.

    5. Evelyn*

      My assumption is that you don’t end up as a direct hire at the target company. You’re a contractor paid by the development company. The client company pays the contractor, the contractor pays the front man, and so the tax situation is on the contractor.

      1. Pat*

        So if the contracting company is using person A to apply for and get hired for lots of jobs, but someone else is actually doing the work, how does the contracting company make money? I guess they must severely underpay the people doing the actual work…? Can someone who understands this please explain it?

        1. Student*

          The people doing the work are almost certainly foreign nationals living and working in countries with a wildly different cost of living. One of the reasons [redacted] needs the OP’s spouse as a middle man is language fluency and availability at local business hours for meetings.

          So they farm the job out to one or more people who only require a small fraction of the remaining 75% of the salary, and pocket the rest.

          I would not count on [redacted] following any relevant tax or employment laws for any of the individuals involved.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Here’s the explanation that I need, because pantheons know I NEEDED it. I could not wrap my head around that entire, uh, “job offer”. Someone’s basically subcontracting the whole project out once awarded, and making it look like “Mr or Ms 25%” is doing the whole thing, while…as you said.

            Slightly bananapants.

            1. Cedrus Libani*

              I’ve heard of the version where the USA-based developer subcontracts their *own* job. They do the interview, get hired, then start collecting a paycheck (and paying taxes) like normal. They show up to meetings and find out what needs to be done. Then, they pass the work to their secret helper(s) and watch cat videos on company time. When the work is finished, they present it as their own. Simple.

              As I understand it, someone’s trying to do this at scale. There’s a middleman who knows a bunch of developers in low cost of living countries, but they can’t work in the USA due to language and/or visa issues. They want to hire some USA-based people who can be the face of the operation. The middleman will represent themselves as a legitimate staffing company, with these USA-based developers as the talent they have available for contracting out. From there, the rest of the scheme proceeds as above. Presumably they’d want to hire you out to multiple companies, so you might be too busy for cat videos, but on the plus side you’d get 25% of all the jobs you can handle.

              1. Sasha*

                Yep. There are also plenty of apparently medium-sized media agencies who are actually just a two-man crew (an account manager and a project manager), who then outsource every pitch they win to Russian devs to actually do the work.

                It isn’t fraud, they win the pitch and how the work gets done is down to them. But they often win the pitch by claiming to be a significantly larger, more established and experienced company than they actually are.

          2. Tinkerbell*

            Yep, exactly. The company thinks they’re hiring an American programmer for $X/hour, when actually they’re getting a non-English-speaking programmer for $.25X and the American programmer for $.25X flat-out lying in team meetings saying he’s doing all the work. The scam company walks away with $.5X for being the secret middleman.

      2. MikeM_inMD*

        That would be the more ethical way to do it, but the sender of the letter is already showing that the only ethic they have is greed, so I doubt they would do this as it would be make them easier to trace and track down.

      3. bighairnoheart*

        That’s what I was thinking. I bet the contractor has a fake name they want you to assume if you work for them. That’s the “person” who the target company hires, and therefore would receive the paychecks/pay taxes on them. You as the worker in this situation would then be paid 25% of that paycheck by the contractor. This opens up approximately 1,000 other cans of worms, but it likely means the worker wouldn’t be openly misrepresenting anything when they pay their taxes (I hope?)

      4. Kevin Sours*

        The way this is set up the client company has not idea that the “contractor” exists. The need to stay hidden so that the developer takes the reputational fall for the subpar work product and is left holding the bag when it all goes sideways.

        This is best viewed as a Long Con rather than any kind of business arrangement.

      5. Wintermute*

        it’s “offshore labor laundering”, letting the offshore workers access jobs who have legal requirements against offshoring (E.g. defense contractors) or simply prefer to hire American. They use a local mule to hide the fact the labor is really being done by a boiler room of developers elsewhere, probably barely-qualified recent CS grads who don’t have the resume to get a legit job but can fake it well enough with occasional help from a senior, working way more hours than normal, and a lot of Stack Overflow and google (and now, ChatGPT prompting).

        Those boiler room workers are probably paid a pittance compared to US wages, cents on the dollar.

    6. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I wonder if the company provides the fake employee a fake social security number?

      Cuz no way am I paying taxes on a salary I am only receiving 25% of

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        I mean, I wouldn’t do this anyway. But I absolutely wouldn’t do it if it meant the salary was being reported as my income and I had to pay taxes on earnings I wasn’t seeing

        1. Kevin Sours*

          Yes but you have the sense that god gave the common turnip, so are not in their target audience.

          But jokes aside, con artists can be very convincing and can get you to do things in the moment that you would never do if you were thinking straight.

      2. Thought Experiment*

        I think Employee is hired by Company A through Vendor B getting paid either W9 or W2 through Vendor B. Company A assumes they are getting 100% of employee but are really only getting 10%.

        But pretending the W2 directly at Company A. At a tech salary it probably doesn’t make a ton of sense because those pay high to begin with and a lot of the benefits I’m about to outline don’t work for higher salaries, but having 8 $50,000 a year jobs where you take home 25% could make sense over one $75,000 a year job.

        Employee is walking away with $100,000. Taxes are much higher, I’m not sure how much you can deduct on the 75% you are paying out, but I’m guessing a good accountant could figure it out. The IRS is really only concerned with getting it’s fair share of money, so as long as you are honest with them you should recoup most of the money you’re giving to Vendor B.

        You’re also able to to get 100% match on up to $22,500 to your (multiple 401ks), and will absolutely max out your social security payment in retirement

      3. cabbagepants*

        At a typical software developer salary, you pay at least 25% of your salary in taxes. If you pay taxes on the whole but only get paid a quarter of it, you could easily owe more in taxes than you are paid.

        scam all around

    7. Parenthesis Guy*

      This arrangement is weird, but consulting is mainstream. Basically, it works like this.

      Company A has the position that pays $100k. They hire Company B to find them a candidate. They agree that Person C is qualified for the position and give him the job. Person C remains an employee of Company B, not Company A. So Company A pays Company B $100k and Company B pays Person C $25k to go to meetings and pays someone else to do the work. Person C only gets $25k from Company B, and only pays taxes on that amount.

      Government Contracting generally follows this model.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Except it appears that in this model that Company A hires Person C, but is unaware that Person C is actually working for Company B and the deliverable Company A thinks Person C is creating for Company A is (unknown to Company A) being created by Others at Company B.

        A government contractor caught doing this would probably not be a government contractor for much longer. The USG is very interested in knowing who is actually doing their work and with what resources — there are whole FAR clauses related to this.

    8. JSPA*

      I’m guessing it’s either corporate espionage or a way for people who are currently banned from working for international firms (N Korea and Russia come to mind) to make some money internationally.

      1. Wintermute*

        ooh you have a point here, my first thought was offshore labor laundering, but I never imagined that it would be Russian nationals trying to bring in US dollar income to keep the economy going through sanctions.

        In that case all the more reason to be aggressive in reporting them to get them shut down, or tipping off the Ukranian internet force, who will take them offline entirely through DDOS and targeted attacks if they are.

        1. MissElizaTudor*

          Let’s not do that. There isn’t some abstract “Russian economy” that exists separate from the ordinary people who live under the dual oppressive forces of Putin and international sanctions. Someone trying to work isn’t doing it to prop up the economy of their country. They’re trying to live.

          If you think this is bad because it’s fraud, sure, but it isn’t extra bad because someone in particularly bad circumstances might make some money. That makes it less bad, tbh.

    9. Ellie*

      Uh yeah, its fraudulent, they want someone to pretend to do a job and not actually do it.

      The ‘stable income’ bit is really hilarious though, lol. Just how long do they think they’re going to get away with you doing no work for?

  2. Former Gremlin Herder*

    I’m struggling to wrap my head around this-so the company pays their developers to do the actual work, while the other person “works for” the company in question? How does this benefit the weird middle man company?

    1. FrogEngineer*

      They probably pay overseas workers a pittance to do the actual development while receiving 75% of the fake developer’s paycheck.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          If I were running this scam, I think it would look something like this:

          * Pay Person 1 (the person who receives the above letter) 25% of the job’s salary for attending the scrum meetings
          * Pay Person 2 (the developer in an overseas country who will work for cheap) 25% of the job’s salary for doing all of the work
          * Pocket 50% of the job’s salary for myself!

          1. ina*

            I think this is exactly it. While I think the letter Alison got was likely an individual job, the idea of a developer overseas getting a small fraction of a large US salary while the US company pockets the majority while doing nothing seems most likely.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I suspect it is not actually a US company (even if they have an Atlanta PO box), since the first rule of getting away with this in the US would be for the physical and financial assets of the company to actually be in Romania.

          2. merula*

            But whose W-2 info do you submit to the job? You’d be more likely to get caught if you didn’t use Person 1’s, but then what’s to stop them from keeping the whole thing, especially since they’re paying the taxes. Presumably the overseas developer doesn’t have a SSN.

            1. Llama Llama*

              I am guessing that company A is paying company B for a contractor. So company B is paying the $25 of the $100 they received for said contractor. They are then paying $25 to the outsourced person.

            2. Kevin Sours*

              If Person 1 keeps the whole paycheck then you stop supplying them the work product. It’s not like people only get paid annually so the actual “walk” amount for Person 1 isn’t going to be that much.

        2. Ex-Teacher*

          It’s probably just hiring people in a country which legally allows people to pay a minimum wage that is substantially lower than western countries. I.e. the salary in question is 100k, the middleman employee gets 25k of that. then the hiring company pays 35k to someone in a poor country to do the actual coding, and they keep the 40k of excess.

          And yes, I know this doesn’t account for taxes.

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            I would also expect that they aren’t terribly worried about the quality of the work. So they can hire lousy, inexperienced people for even cheaper. The “employee” might get fired eventually, but they still have the money.

        3. Bruce*

          I don’t work in defense but my field is very very strict about data security. This sort of >scam< would violate my employer's security rules so many ways, and would violate our customers' security agreements. Not only breach of contract but possible violation of laws on sharing sensitive info. If this came to light the perpetrator could find themselves sued and even in jail for IP theft. I realize many software fields are not as locked down as my field, but some software is restricted for export, so scammers should tread carefully…

          1. Bruce*

            As an example, there are many customers that require me individually to sign a contract confirming I will protect their information and that I’ll be subject to penalties if I disclose it.

        4. Roland*

          The company doing the hiring would never hire anyone on their offshore team or contract out to them. They need a US-based developer with a good reputation to secure the money.

        5. Richard Hershberger*

          The nominal hire (aka “the patsy”) is the person the ultimate employer interacts with. The patsy also is a native Standard English speaker and, I will go out on a limb speculating, presents as White.

        6. Student*

          Arbitrage. It’s wildly profitable, low risk arbitrage to break US employment and tax laws.

          There is very cheap foreign software coding labor available. There are domestic US coding jobs with high salaries. There are US laws dictating how you hire or contract such work to foreign nationals. So companies like this find creative, low profile ways to break the law so that very cheap foreign software developers do the work for a domestic US salary, and the company pockets the difference.

      1. Observer*

        They probably pay overseas workers a pittance to do the actual development

        Or they think they can use ChatGPT or something like it and/or are using existing code (they they probably don’t have rights to.)

      2. Stephanie*

        That’s my guess, but this still seems overly complicated. I’m wondering if the jobs they’re targeting don’t want to deal with offshoring or sponsorship. It’s a scam where they still have to do work?

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          I think this is it. Redacted works with companies to hire Americans to get around visa rules, etc. The American is officially on the payroll, but the work is actually done offshore or using people who can’t legally work in the US. The company pays Redacted, who then pays the American and offshore folks, thereby taking care of any tax issues. Because they don’t want anyone looking too closely at the arrangement.

          Is it is still fraud? Not my area of law but I would venture to say YES.

        2. Student*

          There are tons of laws regarding employing foreign labor that [redacted] is just breaking. Impossible to tell you exactly which ones from this description, but I would bet my house on it. Could be bypassing tax laws. Could be contracting jobs that require domestic labor (think national security jobs, or jobs that require high levels of safety and are subject to special regulations, like medical devices).

      3. Ann Onymous*

        Other costs of doing business (renting/owning a building, utilities, etc) may be cheaper overseas too.

      4. BadHostess*

        “a lack of talented resources who can effectively communicate with clients.”

        That sure sounds like they’re making use of foreign workers. A legitimate company suckered by these people may well be taking part in exploitative outsourcing* without even realizing it.

        *Not all foreign outsourcing is exploitative, but these are not nice people we’re talking about here.

      5. Magenta Sky*

        And they’re probably (planning to) use AIs to write the majority of the code (which isn’t usable in the current state of the technology without careful review and editing by actual programmers, but hey, if you’re going for one kind of fraud, why not go for all kinds.)

      6. MigraineMonth*

        I know someone who bragged about having taken multiple full-time jobs and outsourced them to developers in the Philippines. She claimed it showed how capable a manager she was.

        Of course, this was the same person who had the same Myers-Briggs type as her manager and tried to convince that manager to fire everyone with a different Myers-Briggs type, so I already knew she either didn’t possess or didn’t consult her moral compass.

      7. Yay Ai*

        If the overseas workers are making market salaries in their home countries what’s the problem?

    2. nope*

      If they’re outsourcing to another country with much cheaper labor prices, then this could earn them a tidy profit.

    3. PhD survivor*

      Because they get 75% of the income from the job. The people actually doing the work would be in a country where salaries are low so the middle man company keeps the difference

    4. Not a Real Giraffe*

      It is the WEIRDEST arrangement I’ve ever heard, but I am trying to imagine it as like, the “Employee” is really the Account Manager. They get 25% of the salary. The developers for the Redacted Company gets the other 75% of the salary, which I assume would be distributed amongst their team, kept for overhead, etc. But it’s not like the Redacted Company is reaping the benefit of being known for their quality work… any quality work will be attributed to the “Employee.” This whole thing makes no sense. What happens if the “Employee” is asked to come into the office for any kind of training or team-building? What happens if that event conflicts with the other “jobs” this “Employee” is “working at”?

      And how does this benefit the “Employee” either? It just seems like a huge reputational risk (and, as I asked above, still not sure how you file taxes on this if the Employer doesn’t know you’re not really their Employee…) to be getting involved in.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I think it’s set up as a contract, so the Employer company is paying for “your” time to the Agency company, and they don’t have to deal with tax documents.

      2. Samwise*

        Reputation is the risk.

        Benefit = fairly easy money

        The employee is an employee of or contractor for the Redacted Company. Files taxes either a W-2 or 1099.

        Redacted company makes a tidy profit –they are taking 75%, and as others have said, are likely paying a very low salary for developers in another country. If they’re paying a salary at all. Probably not paying benefits to those workers.

        Is it fraud, legally speaking? IANAL so I don’t know.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          IANAL either, but I’d be very, very surprised if “I accept this job offer and will do the work assigned” while having no intention of doing the work isn’t fraud.

      3. Thought Experiment*

        This was the one that got me. Redacted Company is representing Employee as 100%. You’d have to have jobs in multiple different time zones so the daily scrums don’t conflict to fool anybody

      4. Kevin Sours*

        “Employee” is as much of a mark as the Employer. It doesn’t make sense. It’s the job of the con artist to keep them from seeing it until the con artist has cashed out.

    5. The Person from the Resume*

      You hire an articulate English speaker who communicates during in the interview. He still shows up at daily/weekly scrum meetings and speaks up there (that is the “Wow” for me) as if he were working for them. His written emails/IMs are in a different voice or less articulate; however, he produces code and checks in his code as expected. Companies tend to want to avoid firing so even if it’s a big fail and the developers code is awful he works for a while before getting fired.

      There is fraud, but it may not be tax fraud. It depends on who the company thinks they are hiring. The interviewee is not using his own name. He may be using the name of the real coder. If so the fraud is the interview and the voice phone calls.

      The [redacted] company gets a cut. Because the guy doing the work may be in a country with a much lower cost of living. Perhaps he’s brilliant but can’t speak english well enough to get hired. Or maybe he’s terrible and can’t get hired because that comes out during interviews. But whereever he is if he could get hired on his own merits he would and since he can’t he willing to take a very low salary from [redacted company] for the benefit of any job at all.

    6. Msgnomer*

      Honestly, if a person is willing to be shady enough to go along with this, why would they not outsource the job themselves and keep the full paycheck, less whatever they’ve agreed to pay the workers they hire?

    7. fhqwhgads*

      they’re basically a consulting firm going out for jobs that are not looking to hire a consultant to do the work. So they keep 75% of what the job pays, and pay the people doing the actual work, probably crappy wages, or the people doing the work are outsourced and in a much lower cost of living area anyway.
      It benefits the company because there’s nowhere near enough clients looking for actual consultants for the company to exist, so if they take these intended-for-a-single-human jobs, they suddenly have opportunities.

  3. Falling Diphthong*

    A software development company based in Atlanta = we have a PO box in Atlanta.

    That we will assist you to pass = we have a Chat GPT subscription.

    1. FrogEngineer*

      I was thinking they would pay developers in India or somewhere but yeah, ChatGPT is even cheaper.

    2. Emily*

      I would guess they have multiple people interviewing for the same job, and so can give you the (solved) code screen ahead of time, and other information about the interview process.

      1. JustaTech*

        That’s better than the folks that several of my friends at different Big Tech companies have encountered who literally Google the answer to interview questions in the phone screen.

        And literally as in literally: my friend was interviewing someone and could hear typing as he asked the question, so he (the interviewer) googled his next question and lo! the interviewee read the top google hit word-for-word.

  4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

    And you only get a 25% cut?! Even though your reputation is the one that will take the hit when you get caught. What a deal.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      It would be a 25% cut at each job you are hired at. Presumably the way to “win” is to get hired for more than 4 simultaneous contracts and somehow juggle all the team meetings.

      Even beyond the ethical concerns, I would much prefer to work one job than spend every day interviewing or in team meetings for projects I don’t know the details of.

  5. I tell you Hwhat*

    Am I understanding this correctly? The company is asking experienced developers to apply for jobs, then, once they get those jobs the company will do them and pay the developer, basically, a finder’s fee? Like…contracting but with extra steps and more fraud?

      1. MigraineMonth*

        So true. I worked briefly for a startup that was meant to disrupt an industry, and half of the CEO’s ideas were literally impossible and/or illegal. (Pro tip: if you’re looking for an industry to disrupt, don’t choose one with a ton of regulations!)

        Looking at a lot of other “disruptive” companies, that seems to be broadly true about them as well.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Like…contracting but with extra steps and more fraud?

      That’s also my understanding of the situation.

    2. Heidi*

      It seems as though the experienced developer would need to get hired for 4 jobs to get the equivalent of a full-time salary. I wonder how they would make the scheduling work for that. I can’t make all the meetings that end up on the schedule for just me.

      1. FrogEngineer*

        I was thinking the experienced developer would have a real job and the 25% would be on top of that. Then you only have to juggle 2 jobs’ worth of meetings.

        1. Heidi*

          That would be easier to manage, but if I already had a full-time job, I wouldn’t want to add on extra meetings. That’s the least fun part of the job. Plus you’d have to do some prep for the meetings to keep people convinced that you actually work there.

        2. bamcheeks*

          But somehow you’ve also got to stay in the loop with the person doing the 75% of work for the job? Like, you’re going to turn up at all these scrum meetings and be like, yeah, I’ve no clue what code I’ve written since yesterday, and whether I’ve done the stuff I said I’d do.

      2. Antilles*

        In my head, the Experienced Developer IS working a full-time job and this is an added 25% salary on top. So the time break-down for this fake role is spending time upfront for the interview to land the role, then afterwards just adding in a few hours per week to answer calls/be in meetings as needed to keep up the illusion.

    3. wounded, erratic stink bugs*

      If you liked the classic “making employees jump through questionably legal hoops so they can be fraudulently classified as contractors,” you’ll love the new “making contractors jump through questionably legal hoops so they can be fraudulently classified as employees!”

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        The business model,
        Developer contracting: Fill an open position for X.
        1) hire one local, legal person, pay him .25X
        2) hire one foreign national to do the work pay him .25X
        3) profit

        What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

  6. PhD survivor*

    I can’t believe they put all this in writing. They must be violating laws to do this, right? They basically have confirmed in writing that they are committing fraud.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s why I wonder if they need you to link them to your bank account as part of the onboarding process.

      1. Observer*

        That’s why I wonder if they need you to link them to your bank account as part of the onboarding process.

        I would expect that to absolutely be standard, so that they can do direct deposit. After all, they want to make this as easy as possible for the “employee” (aka mark).

        By putting it writing that this is their intention, they make is *much* harder for the victims to go to the police.

      2. Katydid*

        Exactly! It screams identity-theft-scam to me. I can’t understand why everyone is speculating about how the purported scheme would work, when most likely the letter-recipient is the target of the real scheme/scam.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I wonder if they’re based in a different country and are counting on the US governments and the employers to not want the hassle of an international case. Maybe they found a place that is especially uncooperative and unhelpful with international stuff.

    3. Anne Shirley*

      An unsavory pairing with the letter writer’s coworker who put his intention to violate company policy and oh, right, possibly kill as well, in writing. We live in utterly insane times.

    4. Alex*

      I would think (apart from the morality) that the actual person breaking the law would be the person who gets the job, not the company paying him to, right? What law is the company breaking themselves? I mean I am not anything close to a lawyer but it seems to be that the employee is the one who has to attest to their identity, etc.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Conspiring to commit a crime is, indeed, a crime. Especially when you initiate the conspiracy.

      2. Huh*

        Presumably they are gaining undue access to the hiring companies information and systems but I’m unclear what, if any, law this violates

  7. Retro*

    This type of setup creates a huge threat to your own reputation. I can’t imagine anyone actually being okay with this!

    1. Beth*

      It’s true that someone who either already has or thinks they can get a well-paying job on their own merits is really unlikely to go for this–it’s too likely to mess up their reputation and spiral their career in a bad direction.

      But someone who did a coding bootcamp and now needs income to pay off the loans but is struggling to pass interviews? A new graduate who’s got a degree in software development but has struggled to compete with recently-laid-off professionals on the job market, who’s hoping that this will get them in the door somewhere for a couple months, and then having literally any experience on their resume will help them get a real job? A “low but not low enough to get fired” performer who knows he’s never going to get promoted or get much of a raise, and thinks he can pull off doing this alongside his main job?

      There are tons of people out there who would be really tempted by an easy $25k and either wouldn’t think about or would risk the consequences. And this fraud doesn’t need someone to stick with it forever–they just need to keep pulling in new people who are willing to play along.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I knew someone who bragged about taking several full-time jobs and personally outsourcing the labor to the Philippines, though presumably she was pocketing 75% of the salaries. She considered herself a “job creator”.

  8. Elle*

    This reads like an assignment given to the main character in a spy movie.
    So am I reading correctly that if you get hired for a job you can earn extra money by interviewing for additional jobs?

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I think they want you constantly interviewing for contract jobs, so you’re bringing in more contracts for the company. Like sales, but with even more lying.

  9. Regular Human Accountant*

    Alison has interviewed people about their jobs in the past, and I think we really need an interview with someone who works (“works”?) for this company! How do they get paid? Do they use an assumed name? What are the tax implications? Inquiring minds want to know!

    1. Shrimp Emplaced*

      Yes, 1000 x yes to an interview with an “employee”!

      I wonder if any former [redacted] employees are AAM readers, or (more likely) have just been sent AAM’s way for getting into this [redacted] mess in the first place …

    1. Magenta Sky*

      If this really is common, it explains why so many tech companies are pushing so hard for return to office. And why they’ll win, in the end.

  10. Falling Diphthong*

    … Now I wonder whether it’s the ostensible business model they present, or if to get started they will need access to your bank account? For paying you vast sums of money, natch.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, first they overpay you, and then they need you to wire them back some of the money, see, because Reasons …

      1. Observer*

        They don’t even necessarily need anyone to wire them anything. In most cases, an employer who has direct deposit information can “claw back” money that they have *accidentally* paid out.

        What would you be willing to bet that the this company won’t use that capacity to slurp up an “accidental fictional over-payment” that covers most of the victims bank account?

  11. Myrin*

    Oh! I remember someone in a comment here describing a similar (or possibly even identical?) “business model” they became aware of through an acquaintance. I don’t remember if it was in the comment section to the linked letter but I’ll be going into deep search mode for it!

        1. Myrin*

          She linked to the letter itself (which I meant by “the linked letter” in my original comment), not to the specific comment my link goes to. Or am I missing a second link somewhere?

            1. David*

              I had the same problem. Do you keep comment threads collapsed by default? Direct links to comments sometimes don’t work if the specific comment isn’t visible.

              In case it helps, I’ve been able to work around it by expanding all comments and then clicking in the browser address bar and hitting Enter, and it will then jump to the comment (which is now visible), although that might be browser-dependent.

  12. MikeM_inMD*

    Part of me says OP’s husband should just ignore this. But the other part of me says to contact a lawyer and then work with your locale’s version of a state’s Attorney General to nail these shysters to the wall.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      Odds are, they’re not in the United States. And even if they’re an actual software company that produces actual software, there’s a good chance they’re in a country that will completely ignore any complaints. (And there’s a good chance it’s all a scam from the word go anyway.)

  13. Robert E.O. Speedwagon*

    This is almost reminiscent of that stupid startup whose MO to have you raise money from former coworkers to meet a threshold to skip the interview. Naturally, and thankfully, they got raked over the coals about it on Twitter and Reddit, and AFAIK they’re defunct.

  14. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    I’m watching the documentary Telemarketers right now (warning lots of NSFW parts). This reminds me of the consultant model scam where the telemarketers call and say they are the Fraternal Order of Police and 100% of the contribution goes to the organization. The name of the organization run by the telemarketers is the FOP, but people think they are actually talking to a police benevolent organization.

    Same REALLY STRONG VIBES here. You will be calling as yourself, so not lying. But withholding the little fact someone else actually does the work.

    How do those meetings go if you aren’t doing the work — Oh hey Sacharissa how goes the coding on the new back end of the website.

    1. MassMatt*

      I did not think I’d be interested in that series but came across it and was hooked.

      And they indicate that the police unions etc were a deeper and more dangerous part of the scam, being more politically connected than the actual telemarketers.

      There were other charities used—firemen, 9/11 families, cancer survivors—but the police unions were the biggest.

      And I got a robocall from just such a “charity” this week!

    2. Sweet 'N Low*

      Ohhh interesting, I had no idea the FOP was a scam. I’ve gotten calls from them before and I’ve always just hung up as soon as I realized they were cold calling asking for money.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Police (and fire, and other public agency) departments the world over will tell you they *never* solicit donations with cold calls. If you get a cold call, there is a 100% chance it’s a scam.

        1. MassMatt*

          This is not true. There are certainly legit FOP etc that don’t engage in this but there are some which do, or at least did before the scandals emerged. The “innovation” of hiring the telemarketers as “consultants “ (so they could say all proceeds were going to the organization) came from a police union of some kind in Indiana.

          But yes, it is extremely easy to establish a business and make whatever claims you want.

        2. Quill*

          “If you get a cold call, there is a 100% chance it’s a scam.”

          This has been my attitude about literally every phone call I have ever gotten, whether it has anything to do with charity or not. Or the amazon account I don’t have.

  15. Bean*

    So they want me to, for a similar amount of pay, take on 4x the developer meetings (the crappy part of the job), and not do any software development (the fun part of the job)?

    Not to mention the need to answer for what’s most-likely low quality code, that I didn’t write?

    This sounds like a nightmare for me!

    1. NYCWeasel*

      You forgot the part where you get taxed as if you earn 4x the income you actually take in, wheeeeeee!

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, this person would have to be an EXCELLENT project manager, because they’re still responsible for the code at the end of the day and have to deal with this middleman plus the (presumably) overseas developer.

    3. NewJobNewGal*

      The most frightening part is that they will be spying on all communication with the hiring company. If they are “coaching” then they will listen in on all calls the shadow has. Are they doing this in healthcare? In financial businesses?

    4. Antilles*

      Not to mention the need to answer for what’s most-likely low quality code, that I didn’t write?
      Even better, answering for that code to people who have already explained the context to not-you over Teams/email.
      Bean, what’s your opinion on the code pull request from yesterday? What do you mean “which request”? We had a whole email thread about this that you were involved with, why are you acting like you’ve never heard of this???

    5. Cedrus Libani*

      Yeah, that was my reaction too. I’m not sure you’d save much time and effort, either. For each 25%, there’s a full-time job’s worth of meetings, plus another full-time job’s worth of secret meetings with the developer who is actually doing your job. (Best case scenario, you still have to tell them what to do, and then make sure they did it; the likely scenario is that they’ll need a lot of help, and then you’ll have to understand their weird, bad code well enough to defend it.) Add in the mental load from all that context switching, and you’re approaching 25% time for 25% pay.

      If it’s all the same to my wallet, I’d rather do one job, for one legitimate employer, where I can do “the fun part” most of the time and also do it correctly. Why would I want to be in meetings all day?

  16. nnn*

    I’m surprised that enough developers find this worthwhile that it’s a workable business model.

    Under this proposal, to make one job’s worth of salary, you’d have to take four times as many meetings, and put your name and reputation on some scammer’s work.

    Whereas if you just get the job, you only have to take one job’s worth of meetings, and you have complete control over what your name and reputation goes on.

    It’s interesting that they think churning out a passable quantity of likely-mediocre development work is the hard part!

    Actually, this aligns with the recent trend of “just use AI to generate the text and then clean it up!”, as though generating mediocre unresearched unfactchecked content is somehow the hard part compared with researching, factchecking, and bringing it up from mediocre to respectable.

    1. Emily*

      It’s possible part of the business model includes getting developers through hiring processes they would not otherwise be able to get through, and therefore into jobs/salaries they couldn’t otherwise get, via running applicants through hiring processes and collecting data on them for the next candidate.

    2. RagingADHD*

      It may not actually be a workable business model at all. Someone could be trying it on to see if they can make it work, or it could be an outright scam of the supposed employees who wind up in the middle of a fake check scheme or something similar.

      1. Hello, World!*

        Yeah, methinks they’ve been inspired by the occasional story to hear about someone getting caught doing this themselves. (Taking a job and outsourcing most of the work to developers overseas.)

        The problem is A) 25% is way too low for this to really be worth the time and risk and B) anyone bold enough to do this probably won’t need or want the extra middleman.

    3. devtoo*

      I volunteer in a community org that helps developers from non-traditional backgrounds land their first jobs, and a handful of our community members have received messages from “companies” like these. So I bet they send out a huge volume of messages and occasionally get a bite from people who are more desperate (not that anyone I know has actually replied)

    4. MassMatt*

      Look at it from the point of view of a programmer with low ethics and high greed. You are being offered 1/4 the salary for going through the interview (a few hours work) and then doing maybe 1-2 meetings a week, maybe more maybe less. It probably sounds like easy money, provided you don’t care about your reputation—maybe your reputation isn’t so great to begin with. If the ongoing meetings are infrequent and the people in India or wherever produce decent code maybe it’s easy money.

      I don’t see how they work out the taxes, though. There was a documentary about people asked to shill for the McDonald’s monopoly prize giveaway game. The people that stole the winning tickets got others to claim the prizes in order to allay suspicion in exchange for a fraction of the prize. But the shills were on the hook for the taxes on the entire amount, so it was not as good a deal as it sounded. And these were not people you could say no to.

      1. nnn*

        I mean, it sounds like easy money if you think faking your way through a meeting where you don’t know what’s going on is easy and also think programming is hard.

        So you’d need people who think faking a meeting is easy AND think programming is hard AND, nevertheless, have done all the work of becoming a programmer who can pass all the tests and interviews and get hired.

        Seems like a small pool to fish from.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Who can pass the tests and interviews with help from this company. If they’re not literally feeding the candidates answers in real-time, they’re certainly sending in multiple candidates to find out what the interview questions and tests are.

    5. Observer*

      I’m surprised that enough developers find this worthwhile that it’s a workable business model.

      That assumes that this is actually what they are doing. I suspect (as others seem to, as well) that what they are actually are after are either your bank information (so they can empty it) or enough of your information and *work documents* (eg SSN, Birth certificate, etc.) that they can use for Identity theft. Possibly to sell to someone who needs work authorization.

    6. Magenta Sky*

      They’re not looking for people who *are* highly skilled coders, they’re looking for people who *believe* they are, but are actually bad enough they can’t get legitimate work.

      You can cheat an honest man, but it’s a lot more work. And scammers aren’t noted for how hard they work.

  17. Stoney Lonesome*

    When I first read the title of this article, I thought it was some sort of corporate sabotage type thing. Like we’ll pay you to get a job at our competitor and be really bad at the job. This is almost weirder.

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Yes, corporate espionage/sabotage was what I thought from the title as well. I was not expecting… whatever this fraud is

  18. Emily*

    I think it is certainly possible that this is what it claims to be (which obviously is bad enough), but it’s also possible that it’s either:

    a) scamming developers by getting access to their bank accounts and stealing money them
    b) scamming companies in a much worse way by getting access to their systems and stealing data or money from them

    Because they’re so upfront about doing fraud, they put the developer in a situation where if either of these other things is happening, the developer is complicit and therefore less likely to report the other kinds of lawbreaking.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Oooh, I like (b). “Okay, Gullible Gus, we need you to give us full access to Bank of America’s systems so our team of crack coders can take care of the ‘doing the work’ aspect of your job. This is very legit. Did I mention we are like totally based in Atlanta?”

    2. Observer*

      Because they’re so upfront about doing fraud, they put the developer in a situation where if either of these other things is happening, the developer is complicit and therefore less likely to report the other kinds of lawbreaking.

      This. Your whole post is spot on. But especially this piece.

    1. Roland*

      Getting US salaries for underpaid developers in other countries. 75% of a US salary is a lot in many places. Of course the person setting this up will be taking a healthy cut themselves no doubt, but whatever % of a US salary they’re offering their offshore workers must still be worth it to those workers.

    2. Correct.*

      If this worked exactly as advertised (a questionable assumption), seems like if you can get 75% of a bunch of US jobs and pay a fraction of that to offshore devs, that’s your ROI right there. It would really just be increased specialization, which we already know scales well as long as you can accept the drop in quality that the corresponding increased in silo-ization might cause. Thankfully for them, that’s not the problem of the people running this operation, so they can very well accept it.

  19. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    If I got this I would think it was a scam. Is there also offshore money wiring involved? Organized crime? The possibilities seem endless.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah I suspect it is actually a scam where this company just commits wire fraud on any applicant foolish enough to take them up on this.

      1. KateM*

        But logically speaking, applicant should be the one who gets all the salary and wires part to the company?

        1. Cranky-saurus Rex*

          It depends how the contract with the “hiring company” is written. I do legitimate IT consulting work (and obviously, but given context I feel like I need to clarify, I do my own work). The hospital system I work with hired a consulting firm, pays them a contract rate. The legit consulting firm I work for does take a cut of what the customer gave them and turns around and pays me my wage as a W2 employee.

          A dishonest consulting firm as that middle man could hire me (as someone eligible to work in the US/native English speaker/etc) to take the initial interviews to get the contract and pay me a smaller percentage than I currently get, pay someone overseas with lower COL a portion of the remainder to do the coding work, and keep a huge cut of the total.

  20. Indie*

    Honestly, this would display so many great interviews that turn into nightmare hires. I can’t imagine ant self-respecting professional (not just developers) seeing this as anything else but a huge liability to their reputation and finances.

  21. Media Mouse*

    Gotta love how this could even appear on someone’s actual resume (if it isn’t fraudulent already). JD – I was part of a scam running bait-and-switch, etc. Or perhaps this could be worded on someone’s resume as:

    – Provided insights into company priorities, retention of clients went up 125% (1 for each job they hold down) within 1 year.

    But wow…just…wow. Engage the local AG and nail these suckers please, OP and OP’s spouse.

  22. Ground Control*

    Ethics aside, I’m far too lazy for something like this. I’ll take my consistent job responsibilities and consistent pay and consistent benefits where I can log off at the end of the day and (for the most part) completely forget about work until the next morning. Hustle and scam cultures sound exhausting.

    1. ina*

      I just learned about over-employment and I legit sighed (primarily because it’s people who already have good day jobs engaging in it because it’s usually remote work – not the “single mom who works two jobs” kind of “over”employment). I’d fold the moment two meetings were scheduled back-to-back at different jobs (a normal occurrence at my 1 job).

    2. Czhorat*

      It’s also walking a tightrope as well as very short-sighted. You get caught hanging around the margins while a third-party does your actual work and your professional reputation is toast.

      If the third-party you’re scamming with goes away then you didn’t actually earn that experience, and won’t have the skill development actually doing the job would have given you.

  23. irritable vowel*

    I’d love to know how those daily/weekly standups are going to go when you don’t actually work for the company/have no idea what it is you’re allegedly working on. And how does communication work (not only with the supervisor but with project stakeholders)? The person taking on this arrangement is basically going to be doing everything except the actual coding work, yet having to own the work product that they have no control over. Hard pass!

    1. irritable vowel*

      The whole arrangement seems so implausible, it makes me think that the actual scam is for the 3rd party to get all or part of a signing bonus and/or get access to their bank account (through a direct deposit/withdrawal setup), and they don’t even care or expect that the work arrangement will take place, because the person will likely either quit or be fired almost immediately.

      1. Czhorat*

        I wonder the same. Though the suggestion others have had – that the actual coding is being done by someone overseas – is at least slightly plausible.

        The worst part is that

        The third party could just as easily sell themselves as a contract coding/developer organization without any fraud or risk of getting caught. Then again, if caught, the biggest hit would be to the applicant/mark/sucker’s rep, not the org.

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          If the reputation of the scam organization gets too hot, they’ll just get a new name.

  24. Observer*

    As I started reading the comments about how weird the business model is, I started wondering if we’re actually focusing on the wrong thing. Because it strikes me that getting something like this to work smoothly and profitably is not as easy as it looks.

    But maybe this is not the business model. Maybe this email is a highly sophisticated and imaginative spear phishing attempt.

    Think about how the 409 / Nigerian Prince scams work. They provide a story that offers the mark an “easy peasy” way to get rich. What often gets overlooked is that the story (which is totally fictional) is presented as absolute truth, and carefully crafted (typos and poor English and all) to do two things. One is to “qualify” marks, ie to make sure that the person they are targeting is likely to be sufficiently credulous and borderline dishonest to do what they want. And secondly, to put people into a position where they feel like they have no recourse when they realize that they have been scammed.

    This email gives me a similar vibe. Any person who takes up this offer is someone who is ethics challenged, and will allow their desire for “easy money” to mess with their sense. And it’s set up in a way that means that when (not if, imo) the person realizes that they’ve been had, they are going have a hard time doing anything about it.

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Yeah. As you and others have said, the tax and security implications really make it seem like this is a scam either to get money from the “employee” or to steal data/money from the other companies.

    2. Czhorat*

      Good point. The best scams rely on the mark’s greed. Look at the classic violin scam as a perfect example.

  25. nnn*

    It also occurs to me that, when the real company discovers what you’re doing, they won’t see it as you’ve been scammed by the scam company, they’ll see it as you’re scamming the real company by outsourcing your development work to the scam company!

    1. nnn*

      Further thought: you could probably scam the real company by getting hired and fraudulently outsourcing/chatgpting your work, and keep significantly more than 25% of your salary

  26. Roland*

    I’ve gotten a similar one too! What a bizarre trend, cold calls saying the fraud right there in black and white. I actually forwarded it to AAM as well but maybe it looked SO spammy it was filtered, haha.

  27. Bob TDQ Fan*


    I know, I know, you probably can’t. But they certainly deserve a name & shame.

  28. FD*

    The funny thing is, I have seen this talked about as an individual scam, where a person will take job and then contract out the work to others (usually implied to be people who will work for much less in another country). I suppose this is the logical next step for when you can’t be bothered to run your own scam!

  29. OperaArt*

    Apart from the financial, tax, security, and legal questions, how would the fake employee be able to participate in scrum meetings for very long without truly understanding the work they’re supposedly doing? Their lack of detailed knowledge would become apparent fairly quickly.

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Yeah, my understanding of scrum meetings is that they’re the participatory kind of meetings where you’re actively discussing the work you’re doing and planning next steps, not lectures where you can just take notes to pass on to whoever is doing the work…

    2. Kevin Sours*

      Somebody who had the technical talent to do job and was getting detailed summaries from the person actually doing the work could probably fake it for a time. At some level the point isn’t that this won’t get found out, it’s that everybody collects the paychecks while company goes through the process of figuring it out and firing the guy.

  30. Mispoes*

    The darknet diaries podcast has a really interesting episode about this, about when a guy got contacted by someone who was asked to pretend to be him felt it was immoral. The episode is 133; I’m the real Connor. I recommended for anyone who’s interested on how this works, it’s terrifiying and interesting.

  31. Ali83*

    How would the person or people doing the actual development work access the systems? Because the “face” person needs access to attend meetings, so it’s not like they can just pass along a laptop with network access. I’m sure people try to do stuff like this but seems difficult to pull off.

  32. Can't think of a funny name*

    I work for a staffing company…this is unfortunately, not uncommon. Usually we figure it out before someone gets placed at a client but some of them are good enough to get thru. For jobs we have to sub out, the vendor we engage has a knowledgeable person do the interviews then someone else shows up to “work” for the client but the job is remote so the person usually refuses to go on camera and they do the bare minimum most likely for multiple jobs at once until the client either gets suspicious or is unhappy with the work output or the client figures out the person is logging on offshore. Sometimes it’s figured out before client has paid anything, other times they do enough to get by and get at least some payments.

    1. TruetalesfromHR*

      This is why I don’t allow subvendors/corp-to-corp from the staffing firms I engage. If you want to build a reputation with your clients as a top-notch firm, I encourage you to abandon subvendors and just be upfront when you don’t have a candidate with the right skillset.

  33. Sangamo Girl*

    In my state (Illinois—where our governors make our license plates®) this is called ghost payrolling and it gets you time in federal prison for honest services fraud.

  34. discontinuity*

    The other side of this: getting “hired” by a company as an advance fee scam, is what I thought of a week or so ago when someone said their onboarding person was terrible. Don’t buy a laptop for reimbursement through a link provided by your new employer without serious digging. The job night not exist and they’ve just stolen the payment for a laptop that will never arrive.

    1. Correct.*

      I feel like that ought to be generalizable: ANY EMPLOYER that expects you to send them ANY MONEY to sign on is at the very least a place you don’t want to work, even *if* they’re legit.

  35. BellyButton*

    I don’t think the name of this scam should be redated, throw it out there for all to see.

    1. Yeah...*

      The potential for legal action against this site or Alison personally is enough reason for Alison not to provide the name of the company. Other folks can look it up.

    1. Phony Genius*

      Except that the “victim” has consented to it. I’d actually call it “identity rental.” (Which will probably become identity theft later, when the company starts using their name in ways that they didn’t consent.)

  36. Thought Experiment*

    This is unethical obviously, but I’m more interested in if it could work for the employee. I think if you have big company developer chops, but have moved to a small shop as either a developer or perhaps a jack of all trades – so some sort of semi-retirement, get out of the rat race type thing it could.

    You’d have to be honest with your main employer to explain the hour or so you’d have to give to another company, but with ethics not being an issue it could work

  37. Jamboree*

    I didn’t understand the original letter. I didn’t understand this update. And I don’t understand the comments. I feel good about all the life decisions that led me here.

    1. Ashley*

      Agreed. I’m sitting here like that meme with the woman staring at all of the math equations in the air.

  38. The Username Lost to Time*

    I want to know what is going on in the tech sector that stuff like this keeps happening. A few months ago I read the Business Insider story about the Gen Xer secretly working three full-time IT jobs. His first job was so slow that he decided to see if he could still do it while working a replacement job he’d just accepted. Then he thought he was going to get laid off so searched for a new job and found that he could do a 3rd full-time, remote job!

    1. Parenthesis Guy*

      It takes awhile for a new junior employee in tech to learn the ropes. Senior employees can’t just babysit them all day because they have their own work. So they don’t have so much work at first. They’re expected to spend time on their own learning the environment and figuring things out. But if they don’t, they may well have significant amounts of extra time where they’re not doing anything.

      1. The Username Lost to Time*

        This does make sense if an employee is changing jobs every six to 18 months. It would also have to be normal to change jobs that often or else that’s a red flag on someone’s resume.

        I’m not sure that’s the full explanation for what’s going on in tech since the Business Insider story was about a mid or senior level IT worker.

  39. Thought Experiment*

    I used to work for a marketing agency, and this was sort of the model. You’d pitch a client and outline 10-15% of a VP, 30% for an AD or AM, and other percentages for lower-level employees.

    Good agencies would give everybody below VP 4-5 accounts and the percentages would be relatively accurate, but “hustle” agencies would have people allocated closer to 150%+

    Even at good agencies the VPs would probably only do about 5% per account.

  40. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    I suspect these people are based outside the US. If I received a letter like this, I would forward it to the FBI with a copy to 60 Minutes.

  41. Frog&Toad*

    Ok, should we make up some names for [redacted company name]? Smoke Screen Specialists, Inc. or Sluggard Specialists, LLC…

    1. Jamboree*

      I was composing a reply in my head (now I’ve forgotten my point but in my head it’s RedactCo and they manufacture teapot cozies from llama wool.

  42. Veryanon*

    Wow. Yes, it seems pretty clear that they are outsourcing their services to people outside the US whose first language isn’t English and/or are not available during US time zones. I’m not 100% sure if this is a violation of applicable laws, but it seems dishonest at the very least.

  43. Parenthesis Guy*

    This case is fraud, but it’s similar to legitimate business models.

    Suppose you work for a company that hires contractors and bids on contracts. For example, take Facebook. They have their own employees to do some work, and then they contract out other work like janitorial services or moderating posts etc etc. So, they’ll put out a contract for a company to do something for them. See this article for more info:

    A company, say Cognizant, wins this contract. They get a certain amount of money from Facebook each month and they use that to pay their employees. This amount of money will be more than what Facebook would use to pay somebody. So, if Facebook would pay a content moderator $20 per hour, Facebook might pay this company $35 per hour for the same person. This seems like a lot, but remember that this means that Facebook doesn’t need to give this person any benefits or let them eat lunches or worry about providing any type of support when they inevitably develop mental health issues.

    Cognizant pays that moderator $15 an hour, another $3 an hour in benefits, another $3 an hour to pay for necessary corporate expenses (accounting, HR, recruiters etc etc), and pockets the remaining $14 as profit. All above board and legal.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      Yes, and there are similar arrangements in traditional trades too. You can “interview” and “hire” a particular Responsible Person (technical term) to renovate your kitchen, but that general contractor business may subcontract your contract, and the person you met with may never actually work at your house. Smart owners actually put in the contracts that the on site foreman will be John Smith, but that’s a minority of construction contracts, even among experienced commercial enterprises.

      1. Quill*

        As a result of this I had someone duct tape a battery into my air conditioner once. Arranged repair with company, subcontractor of a subcontractor came out and decided to create an electrical nightmare.

        I will no longer allow people to do repair work without my direct supervision, even if it’s 99 degrees out and I am supposed to be in a meeting.

    2. Anon123*

      Definitely, even with some government contracts (i.e. the government contracts with a prime vendor, who sub-contracts, etc.). I have even seen cases where a prime vendor who loses a re-bid comes back as a sub contractor to the vendor they lost to.

  44. Loves Libraries*

    I just forwarded this to my son who is a software developer in metro Atlanta to see if he has heard about it.

  45. Ink*

    This sounds EXHAUSTING. Especially given the field isn’t exactly one known for a high number of people who love interacting with people. One salary = four jobs, all of which you’re doing the boring work for. Like the company may or may not actually manage to keep you updated on what’s going on, but you’re just talking to people. Constantly. Even someone who enjoys interfacing with a broader team probably doesn’t actually like it that much when they have no investment in whatever’s being discussed.

    Assuming it’s not an attempt to scam you rather than the companies you’re supposedly applying at, you get to do exclusively the boring part of the work, have to do it at least 4 times to achieve a full salary (and what about benefits? PTO? Retirement funds? Not to mention… are you supposed to negotiate salary as part of your interviewing “work”? Or take whatever they’ll offer, requiring even MORE fake jobs to meet a normal salary for field and experience?), and risk torpedoing your personal reputation. Sounds like fun :/

    1. Czhorat*

      But … if you got hired, don’t you get the benefits and PTO? The company thinks you work for them, unless part of your deal with the scammers is not to have anything taken out of your paycheck.

      1. Jamboree*

        Weakest link, tho. You’d only be able to use the PTO offered by the company offering the least PTO. I suppose with four employer-provided health plans you could pick the most advantageous one for each different situation.

  46. 123*

    Highly likely they are scammers from a country with a bad reputation (Nigeria, North Korea, etc). They would not be hired by any sensible person, so they want someone’s identity to give the appearance of legitimacy.

  47. Durgen*

    You are playing with fire trusting that company with your bank account info. They can mail me a paycheck the old fashioned way…

  48. MechE31*

    I had a friend that was interviewing a remote candidate for a technical position via video chat. Someone on the call picked up on a weird audio/lips not synced issue so they asked the candidate to write the answer to to a question instead of speaking it. The candidate was stumped and it became apparent that a different person was talking than the person shown on video.

    Funny thing is that an interview a few people down the line had the pen and paper ready to go and in frame. They think it was a foreign company that was attempting to outsource the work to non-qualified people for as long as the could keep it up.

    1. el l*

      Look up the Russian term “Smekalka.” I think that perfectly describes this:

      On one level brilliant. On another, really really really dumb.

  49. thatoneoverthere*

    I mean I have seen tik toks where people can run programs and work multiple jobs at once. But this takes the cake. I can’t decide if its evil or brilliant. Evil Genius level I suppose.

  50. e271828*

    This is interesting paired with the letter above, which touches on companies becoming very rigid about in-office time. Possibly this scamming is more widespread than one would guess.

  51. LifeBeforeCorona*

    “an exciting and stable income”? I beg to differ. This has trainwreck written all over it.

  52. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    I’m guessing that this isn’t a company at all, but rather some over-privileged recent college grad (remember the “ideas guy”?) who thinks this is a brilliant idea, and has no effing clue about taxes, W-2s, labor laws, etc. Of course he’s the CEO. He’s also a total dumbass.

  53. Nightengale*

    But I sort of love that we have been using [Redacted] as the company name in the comments.

  54. Two Pop Tarts*

    All made possible by remote work. Maybe this one the reason so many companies are forcing people into the office.

    I know most people here are familiar with the IT programmer switch:
    1: Interview a person remotely and hire them
    2: The person that shows up to the office is not nearly as skilled as the person you interviewed; doesn’t speak English nearly as well; and doesn’t resemble the person you hired

    So now this has morphed into people who attend the daily agile standups remotely, but does nothing else. The actual coding is done by in a programming sweat-shop in a developing country.

    The fraud is the company has no idea of the quality of work done in the sweat-shop. Also, companies have no idea who actually has access to their code. Will they sell a copy to the company’s competitor?

    There are a lot of government restrictions on code going overseas. A company could find themselves in violation of the law without even knowing it.

  55. SB*

    I am very obviously too old to understand exactly what is going on here…how would this even work?

  56. Alternative Theory*

    Maybe it’s not monetary fraud that’s the goal here… Maybe it’s something closer to corporate espionage through access to files, etc.?

  57. Tiger Snake*

    I have heard of individual programmers hiring a third party to write code they’ve been hired to deliver. It’s not okay –
    There’s fraud and deception in the general sense, if not legally;
    It comes come with a whole ream of legal problems around code ownership (contracts would say the company owns the code you produce, the third party didn’t sign a dang thing);
    It usually brings sovereignty into question, especially if the company has government contracts itself.

    This is like… taking that problem and saying “I know, I’ll turn that into an entire business model”. I do not believe for a second that the company has any programmers in itself.

  58. Office Gumby*

    What’s getting me is how the company expects to deliver on the bids their patsy makes in the scrum meeting.

    1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

      I had an employer that outsourced (mostly but not entirely above-board) to some mediocre contractors, and what they did was find an existing blob of code that vaguely did what needed, copy the entire blob, and make seemingly random changes until it produced vaguely the requested output.

  59. Erin*

    I’ve gotten a few of these emails, and they just seem gamey/too strange/wtf that I just deleted, and never gave them a second thought.

    I did respond to one of them with pie in the sky numbers. I said my hourly consulting rate is $5,ooo, and I would need a retainer of $40,000 (one full day) to move forward. Strange that they never responded back…..

  60. JustaTech*

    In one of those amazing coincidences, just yesterday I heard about a head of Regulatory Affairs (very important position that interfaces with the government about laws) at a local company who was caught out as actually working for 4 companies at once and farming out most of the work to underlings he wasn’t supposed to have.

    Someone at one company caught the Regulatory person having other jobs, the Regulatory person got the first person fired, and that person sent an email blast and now the Regulatory person is fired from all 4 of their jobs.
    (How did they get caught? They were terrible at their job and never knew what was going on!)

  61. Introvert Teacher*

    Hahaha. This sounds scammy to me.
    My own significant other is in software development and had his own encounter with something similar. Someone reached out to him explaining that they were from a software developing company based in a different country (somewhere in Eastern Europe) and that they needed English-speaking developers to impersonate them in client-facing meetings “because our English isn’t that great and we want our clients to take us more seriously”. This person also had some username on LinkedIn that was a very bland, white person English-speaking name.

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