I have gotten lots of responses from people saying that they too have received the same emails from fake UN agencies offering cushy six figure jobs around the world. Several people have said that they responded to the advertised postings and received job offers almost immediately.
However none of them have corroborated the claim by UNCDF and by World Vision that the scam relates to paying an "application fee" or a "training fee." This does seem like a likely variant on the phony federal job listings scam, in which a fictitious federal job placement service would offer to get you a job with the US government if you pay an application fee or service fee to them.
The other real possibility is that the scam relates to identity theft. CNNMoney published an article in 2005 entitled "Job Offer or Identity Theft". They note that in a tough employment market, job seekers are in a vulnerable state and might disclose online much more than they should to a company with available jobs. They give a number of good tips on how to job hunt safely, including creating a "cybersafe" resume and to verify requests for personal data.
The international aspect of the UN job offer scams adds another level of vulnerability. Implicit in the positions offered is the promise of a visa to work in Europe or the United States. Job seekers in developing countries might have less ability to thoroughly investigate position listings that seem legitimate, and less legal recourse if they do get scammed.
It’s all very sad and upsetting that people would prey on folks like this.
UPDATE: One commenter reports that he was asked to pay $2,300 for a training fee!