It’s nearly the Easter break and, if you’re a university student, you’re probably thinking about how you can earn a bit of dosh during the holiday. If you’re looking for jobs online, make sure they’re genuine before signing on the dotted line. We’ve invited Keith Rosser, from SAFERjobs to explain.

Students are easy targets for job fraud

There are thousands of cases of online job fraud in the UK each year and the age group most likely to fall victim are those aged 18-24.

This age group is tech savvy and the internet opens up a whole new world of opportunities for them. But there are also risks.

Scammers will post fake adverts on jobs boards, some will even contact the victim directly through social media sites.

Students targeted by online jobs fraud

Students can be vulnerable to online jobs fraud

They’re tuned into the fact that younger people are looking for seasonal work around the holidays.
And this is reflected in our research, which shows a spike in the reporting of online job scams around Christmas, Easter and during the summer.

• July and December last year saw the highest value of fraud reported.
• In December 2015 and January 2016 38% of all scam reports were from students.
• The average scam is thought to cost around £4,000 – but, in one case, a student’s parents were conned out of £10,000.

It’s not just students paying the price – their parents and families are suffering too.

SAFERJobs is currently working with the National Association of Student Employment Services (NASES) and the Association of Colleges to raise awareness of job fraud.

This is a problem that can be tackled and stopped if we can get the world out there and make more students aware.

Scams to look out for

There are several different tactics the fraudsters will use when trying to lure students into a job scam:

  • MONEY MULES – Scammers advertise a job on a work-from-home basis. It’ll be promoted as a role that doesn’t require much or any experience, usually just a high school or college certificate, but will offer an unusually high salary. The victim unwittingly helps to launder money by doing things like cashing a cheque or buying office supplies on their employer’s behalf.

Here’s an example scam advert:

“If you are available immediately, then we want you to join our team. Clerical Assistant (Part-Time, Home Based) Position is available now for both US and UK residents! Wage: $2000 (1200 GBP) monthly basic pay plus benefits! The Role The position will provide you with the exposure to operational and limited analytical task. You will work as a Clerical Assistant, meaning you will perform exchange operations, paperwork duties, clerical assignments communicating with our US based customers to facilitate the process.”

It’s not just students paying the price – their parents and families are suffering too.

  • ADVANCE-FEE – This can happen in a variety of ways, it involves the victim paying out a sum of money for a service they never receive. Scammers use this tactic quite a bit to target students through fake au pair, nanny jobs. The victim will be asked to pay a fee to attend a childcare training course or for a police check or to be registered on a job site.  In some cases the scammer will contact the victim through a genuine site pretending to be a family looking for a nanny. They will ask the victim to pay in advance for travel and visas.

Here are some other real-life examples from students:

“They told me that I need to perform a DBS check and gave me a link where they have asked me for 100 pounds to have it in time for the start of my job. When I tried to explain to him that this is really suspect, he told me that normally it takes at least 2 weeks and a lot of people have used this service and it is fine.”

“I was offered a job without interview and all communication done on the internet via email. They have requested money for DBS checks and informed that if this is not completed then the job will be revoked. They refuse to answer landlines or any email when they were questioned.”

  • PREMIUM-RATE: The scammer will ask the victim to phone them for an interview, this will be a premium-rate line that can cost up to £500 if you’re kept on the phone for over an hour.

Some victims just can’t be persuaded because they’re so desperate to make it on their own.

The impact

The students who seem most vulnerable to these scams are those in their first year of university. They’re trying to demonstrate to their parents that they can be independent and earn on their own.

But it’s not just the students who suffer. In a lot of cases, they’re borrowing money from their parents. We dealt with one case where a couple had lost £10,000 to a scam.

We’ve even had families contacting us because they need help trying to explain to their offspring that they’re being scammed.

Some victims just can’t be persuaded because they’re so desperate to make it on their own.

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Don’t be fooled

Our advice to all students looking for jobs online:

• Check with our site if you’re in any way concerned. If you’ve seen it on your university careers site, check with them too.

• Don’t part with your money up front.

• If you’re not sure, check the details online – including the company, the person’s email address and their name.

• Do a judgement test – how did that person approach you? Was it through social media? Do you think they’re really genuine?

• Bad grammar and poor English in the description is usually a tell-tale sign of a scam.

• We know this is said a lot but if it’s too good to be true, it probably is! Avoid jobs that offer high salaries but require little or no experience.

• Report any concerning situation to SAFERjobs where you can also get free, expert advice