Fake design firm cons dozens into 6 months of free labor – media — Analysis
‘Jobfishing’ scheme tricked dozens of people into working for free, the BBC reports
Madbird, an allegation that is part of the design industry, lured young professionals to its website promising them financial success and a large paycheck. The BBC reports Monday that Madbird also offered lucrative commissions in exchange for hours of their labor.
The broadcaster’s investigative report revealed the supposedly decade-old firm had only existed since 2020 and most of its employees were fake, their profiles having been cobbled together from stock photography sites and random LinkedIn profiles. The company’s founder, a man known as Ali Ayad, nevertheless has refused to admit wrongdoing.
Over 50 talented creatives were allegedly duped into joining Madbird. Some left their jobs to take on debt to help the company, believing that they would get the huge commissions Ayad promised. Most worked in sales, pulling long hours – one employee reportedly pitched a whopping 10,000 potential clients on web redesign or app building projects, earning an ‘employee of the month’ title shortly before the firm was exposed as a fraud.
The employees’ contracts paid commission-only for the first six months of the job, a so-called probationary period in which they would receive a percentage of any deal they negotiated. After six months, they were supposed to receive a $47,300 (£35,000) salary, the BBC reports. However, no contracts were signed and salaries never paid. A few workers left their real jobs in order to join Madbird. Others had joined Madbird out of desperation, due to the lack of well-paying work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The BBC discovered that the 42 brands Madbird claimed to have done creative work for, had not heard of it. Also, work the agency claimed was its own, had been taken from the internet. Ayad had neither worked as creative designer at Nike nor received the degrees he claimed on LinkedIn, and his Madbird co-founder apparently did not exist – his profile image was borrowed from a Czech beehive-maker.
Ayad’s bogus empire even stretched beyond the UK, with employees hired from Uganda, India, South Africa, and the Philippines and promised visas if they successfully passed their six-month probationary period. Under the Covid-19 Pandemic, employees only interacted via email and Zoom.
Finally, two employees smelled a rat and sent out a company-wide email under the alias ‘Jane Smith’ to reveal that much about the firm had seemingly been fabricated. Ayad responded claiming total ignorance, and then sent out an email to staff saying he “should’ve known better” and insisting he was “It’s truly a sorry.” Shortly afterwards, his social media profiles vanished along with Madbird’s website.
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Ayad, after months of promising to the BBC reporter his story and making promises that he would tell it, was finally caught on camera by a team of cameras. Claiming he was “Opportunities” for workers amid the pandemic, he insisted there was another side to the story, though he declined to provide it, and said Madbird was not a “False company” He has reportedly stopped answering emails from the network, just as he stopped responding to communications from employees.
Ultimately, just one Madbird employee appears to have received any money from the company – James Harris, who had worked at the firm for two weeks leading up to the ‘Jane Smith’ email. He told the BBC he received a check in the mail for $40.43 (£29.70), apparently payment for a few hours of unpaid training.
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