In the last decade the internet has opened up a host of new opportunities for job seekers – with 67 per cent now going online to look for new roles – but it has also opened the door to opportunistic fraudsters.
Online job fraud now affects thousands of people in the UK every year – with the average scam costing the victim around £4,000.
Keith Rosser is the chair of voluntary organisation; SAFERjobs, which launched in 2008 with the Metropolitan Police to help tackle the problem.
SAFERjobs aims to raise awareness and give free advice; it also offers the opportunity for job seekers to report scams.
Preventing job scams
Keith says: “In 2008 around 150 people were coming to us each month for advice, that’s now soared to 70,000.
“Last year we helped around 850,000 people and prevented £200,000-worth of jobs scams. It’s an encouraging number but there is still plenty to do.
“Online scams, specifically regarding jobs, are becoming ever more intricate as fraudsters seek new ways to fool their victims.
“Many now tailor their scam to their victim, researching their career background online before targeting them with a convincing lie.”
Scams to look out for:
Advance-fee scams: fraudsters ask for money to write CVs or carry out security and police checks.
We’ve also seen some pretending to be immigration lawyers and even travel agents in order to target individuals looking for a job overseas.
Some scams see victims sign up for expensive training programmes, which don’t exist. Some even go through the ‘training’ for jobs only to find out the qualification they receive is not real and neither is the promised job.
Fraudsters have also been known to build up a rapport with their victim – contacting them numerous times and all the while offering more and more fake services.
In one case, we had a worried woman contact us to say her brother had paid thousands of pounds to fraudsters but he couldn’t be convinced that he was being conned.
Sadly, some people don’t want to believe what’s happening – once they’ve started handing over money they convince themselves that they’ll get that dream job.
That’s what makes it so easy to fall prey to the criminals; fraudsters are selling the ‘dream’
That’s what makes it so easy to fall prey to the criminals; fraudsters are selling the ‘dream’, the role that has a salary of £100,000 and requires very few qualifications, skill or experience. This just proves if it’s too good to be true, it usually is!
Some victims have even turned up to workplaces expecting to start their new job – only to find out that the employer has never heard of them.
Premium-rate phone scams: The victim calls a number assuming they’re going to have an initial phone interview but they’re kept on hold for a long period of time before they realise what’s happened.
In some cases job seekers will be duped into going through a fake interview on the phone, which could last up to an hour at a cost of hundreds of pounds.
Money laundering: Fraudsters employ unwitting victims on a work-from-home basis. The victim assumes they’re employed in a genuine job but they’re really being used to launder money.
They’re asked to buy office equipment and ship it to a specific address or cash a cheque not knowing that they are actually committing a crime in the process.
Anyone can be a victim
Continuing, Keith says: “Anyone looking for a job, even anyone with an online profile, can be a potential victim but we’ve found that those most likely to be targeted are the 18-24s because they’re most likely to go online to hunt for a job.
“Adults who have been long-term unemployed are also likely to be vulnerable; they want a job so badly that fraudsters find them an easy target.
“Today, around 50% of people contact us before they are defrauded and we are able to stop it from happening but for the other 50% it’s too late.
“Encouragingly, more and more people are now waking up to the danger of jobs scams and there are organisations who have taken action.
“Most online jobs boards, for example, are carefully monitoring jobs that are advertised on their sites. SAFERjobs works with the industry to raise awareness and stop fraudsters involved with jobs scams. We’re a team comprised of individuals from law enforcement, government, trading standards, citizens advice, trade associations and recruitment. By working together, we can do more to help stamp out job fraud.”
If you’d like advice on job scams or would like to report an incident, visit SAFERjobs