Job scams and internet fraud

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A recent survey by ActionFraud found that more than 67% of people look online for jobs, but are unaware of the growing number of ‘fake jobs’ or ‘job scams’ they are at risk to. Over 700,000 jobseekers reported losing more than £500,000 through job scams – a 300% rise over the last two years.

The variety and severity of scams, and the methods fraudsters are using are constantly changing. We asked Keith Rosser, Chief Executive of SAFERJobs, for his thoughts.

What is a job scam?

In simple terms, it’s fake online job advertising, targeting jobseekers with the aim of stealing personal information or money. In 2016, over 300,000 students were targeted – with over half handing over cash, totally unaware they had been scammed.

Students are being targeted because they want to support themselves financially through uni. It’s a tough and competitive job market out there, so they’re more willing to part with cash if it means securing a job.

What are the main scams I should look out for?

Scams are becoming extremely sophisticated, with fraudsters upping their game, making it really difficult to know what’s genuine or fake.

Opportunists are tailoring scams to potential victims’ backgrounds before targeting them with convincing lies, attempting to collect personal information and con them out of money.

If you are even slightly suspicious about a recruiter, have been targeted or treated unfairly about a job, or are the victim of a scam, you can report it to SAFERjobs. They will share details of potential criminality or breaches of regulation with their partners, such as the police, and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Common scams

  • Fake job adverts are listed to entice people to apply, so fraudsters can gain personal information, including national insurance details, bank details, date of birth and address, to steal your identity.
  • Advance fee scams are very common. Fraudsters ask for money up front for things like CV writing, admin charges, carrying out background security checks such as Data and Barring Service clearance, and even claiming to be travel agents when people are looking to work abroad.
  • Premium rate phone interview scams are a growing concern. Scammers send texts or missed call messages to victims asking them to call premium rate numbers for an initial phone interview. People are put on hold for a long period of time, making the call last up to an hour. Costs to unsuspecting victims can total hundreds of pounds.
  • Identify fraud and identity theft is a worrying trend. Fraudsters pose as employers and ask for personal information, bank statements, passport details, and driving licences as pre-employment checks.
  • Money muling scams involve someone known to students asking them to pay money into their account, and then transfer it back to them electronically to earn a small fee for doing so. Main reasons given are, ‘working cash-in-hand and don’t want to pay tax as there’s too much in their own account’. But this is money laundering, and it’s illegal.   
  • Rental fraud, e.g. student accommodation paid up front which doesn’t exist. Particularly busy in late summer/early autumn when students are looking to find houses or rooms to let before returning to uni.

How do I know if a job advert is fake or real?

  • The obvious giveaway is poor spelling or grammar in job adverts, and a generally amateurish look.
  • A common warning sign is if a personal email address is supplied as the contact for more information, e.g. – be wary and check this before making contact.
  • An email congratulating you on ‘getting the job,’ before you have met the employer – really? It’s time to be very cautious. Scammers use fake company domain names, so always check out the company thoroughly.
  • Most job scams are email-based, and rarely involve meeting recruiters face-to-face. So, if you’re asked to click a link for more information, check out the company first.  
  • If you haven’t registered with a recruitment agency, and receive personalised job offers, it’s probably a scam.
  • Fraudsters are targeting social media sites, such as Linkedin, to clone themselves as headhunters or recruitment agencies. They access personal profiles, career histories, and CVs  to tailor – so beware of unexpected job offers through this route.
  • Job adverts urging you to apply immediately and not asking for any previous experience are usually just too good to be true. Typically they are described as ‘your dream job, no experience needed’ – always check company websites for contact details to make sure it’s a genuine. If still in doubt, ring and speak to the personnel or HR department to make sure.

Advice from students who have fallen victim to online fraud

  1. Don’t make personal and sensitive information visible on your social media profiles.
  2. Never part with money up front for background checks or admin fees.
  3. If invited to do a phone interview, make sure the interviewer phones you - (you may be at risk of a premium rate number scam).
  4. Don’t accept money for nothing (money mule), for ‘working from home’ scams.
  5. Don’t share any information until you have met face-to-face, and then only when you’re sure it’s a genuine company.

Where can I find out more?

If you think you’ve been targeted or are a victim of job fraud, there’s help at hand. 

  • ActionFraud — run by the City of London Police and provides guidance for all fraud and internet crime.
  • Safer Jobs — experts dealing with over 70,000 enquiries every month, and provides free advice to victims of job fraud. 
  • Get Safe Online — full of information, hints and tips to stay safe, and links to other organisations who can provide support 

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