A recent BBC Three documentary ‘Jobfished’ has unveiled a shocking employment related scam which left dozens of people in thousands of pounds worth of debt.
Investigative Journalist Catrin Nye and her investigative team discovered that a ‘glamourous design company’ was nothing more than a scam being run by an individual called Ali Ayad. Further investigations revealed that the company ‘Madbird’, built on fakery during the pandemic, had more than 50 employees all unaware they were working for a fraudster until an email exposed the truth. The employee’s ’employment’ was nothing more than a scam.
Glamourous and fake?
Madbird employees worked remotely and only communicated virtually on zoom and by email. They were completely unaware of their participation in an online con and truly believed they had great jobs at a successful company.
However, one of the employees Gemma Brett, grew suspicious of the company after a search for the company’s registered address produced images of an upmarket block of flats in Kensington, London which looked nothing like the clips on Madbird’s website.After reverse image searching parts of the website Gemma discovered the work Madbird claimed as their own was in fact stolen. Furthermore she went on to find that some of the colleagues they had been in contact with online were not in fact real people.
Madbird employee Jordan, 26 years old, revealed he worked for the company for 6 months and contacted over 10,000 people, and said: “In my head at the time, I was thinking I’ve wasted six months where the minimum wage would have got me over £8,000 and I got nothing”.
Chris, 27, from Cornwall said he “never got paid anything at all” and “to have gone months at Madbird without pay [while] still paying off a mortgage, paying off loans, it leaves you in a deep hole in effect”. He also revealed working at Madbird cost him £10,000.
An email was circulated to all ’employees’ and this set in action the realisation that the job wasn’t what they had been led to believe.
Chris and Jordan took Madbird to an employment tribunal. Madbird failed to respond to the claim so the employment tribunal found in Chris and Jordan’s favour and ordered the company to pay them £8,000 each in unpaid minimum wages.
The BBC documentary tracked down Ali and questioned why he created the fake business. He was evasive and aggressive with the researchers making statements like “all I know is that we created opportunities for people. In the midst of Covid”. It remains unknown as to why Ali created the business and whether he was working alone.
In general, it is safe to assume that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. But if you have any concerns about a prospective employer, do some research such as with Companies House, online review sites and others to make sure that you can confirm the identity of your future employer.
If you require any assistance or have any queries regarding employment, contact our employment team here.
This article was written by Alex Pearce, Senior Associate in the Employment Law Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of February 2022.