Recruitment Scams on the Rise

2nd Mar 2021

Scams that entice job applicants to part with money are on the rise; another opportunistic move from fraudsters keen to capitalise on the uncertain business environment created by the pandemic. We feel that preying on people who are looking for a job – and likely watching their finances carefully – is a particularly painful line of attack.

It’s so sneaky and insidious that almost three quarters of job seekers admit they wouldn’t recognise the warning signs of a job scam. Action Fraud has reported that 18-24 year olds are the most likely victims, losing on average around £4,000.

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UK Job Market

The UK’s jobless rate rose to 5.1% in the three months to December 2020, with 726,000 fewer employees on company payrolls than before the pandemic levels. Almost three-fifths of those losing their jobs were 25 and under.  Young people have borne the brunt of the shutdown of bars, restaurants and the wider reaches of the travel, hospitality and retail sectors.

The government’s furlough scheme has helped protect many workers from losing their jobs. There were still around 6 million workers on furlough at the start of February 2021, but many of them face an uncertain future knowing the scheme is likely to come to an end soon.

All in all, there are a lot of people looking for a new job in an economy where many industries are struggling. The number of new jobs being advertised is rising but is still 26% below where it was a year ago.

Growth in online recruitment scams

The pandemic has accelerated the digital revolution, and most interviews are currently happening online. More than two thirds of jobhunters are now seeking their new roles through online channels according to Safer Jobs, a group setup by the Met Police to combat fraud in this area.

All this online activity in such a specific area has proved fertile ground for the scammers. According to Which? there are four common forms of employment fraud:

  • Advance Fee Scam  – A payment is requested for expensive, non-existent training programmes or services (like checking your criminal background).  Scams around jobs overseas often seek upfront payment for immigration lawyers or travel agents.
  • Premium-Rate Phone Scam – Candidates are asked to call a number for an initial telephone interview but are kept on hold for a significant length of time before realising they have been duped.  These “hold” scams – or others where a fake interviewer keeps you on the line – can last up to an hour and cost hundreds of pounds.
  • Money Laundering – Criminals are increasingly organising fake jobs on a ‘working from home’ basis.  They will often ask victims to purchase office equipment and then ship it to a specific address, or cash a cheque and retain a portion of the funds “for yourself as salary”.  Both scenarios entail the victim participating in money laundering and committing an offence.
  • Salary Payment Scam –  Fraudsters will ask for bank account details in order to pay a salary that never arrives.  These details are often the cruel precursor to them stealing money from the account or passing the details on to a third party accomplice and sharing the cash.

Be careful with your CV

Do not reveal too much personal information on your CV.  There are data protection laws in place that mean potential employers are not allowed to pry to closely in to details that don’t relate to the job.

Revealing too much about yourself on a CV could lead to you becoming the victim of an identity theft.  In some instances a CV is a scammer’s dream come true. The sole purpose of your CV should be a summary of why you are the best candidate for that job.  You should NOT be asked, and therefore do not need to reveal the following:

  • Date of birth
  • Full address
  • Passport number
  • Driving licence number
  • National insurance number
  • Marital status and number of children
  • Credit card or bank account numbers
  • Height and weight
  • Hair and eye colour

Five steps to protect yourself from employment fraud

  • Be extremely suspicious if the prospective employer relies on a mobile phone number or email address ending @yahoo or @hotmail as a point of contact.
  • Check emails, texts or documents for spelling mistakes – always an indicator of a fraudster in a hurry to rip you off.
  • Check the company’s details, and in some cases their very existence, with Companies House. If these companies do exist, contact them directly from details on their website to confirm the identify of your contact and the validity of a job offer.
  • If in discussion about a job overseas, contact the relevant embassy and find out how much a visa would cost and how the application process works. If this information does not match the story you heard from the potential employer, then it’s a sure sign that something is wrong.
  • Beware if an employer tries very hard to stop you from making your own travel arrangements and accommodation – or is extremely keen that you use the agency of their choosing.


What to do if it happens to you

Before you make any rapid decisions to take your dream job, have a chat with a friend to make sure they agree it sounds great rather than suspicious.

However, if you do take things forward and then become a victim of employment fraud, remember:

  • Stop communicating with the ‘company’ or ‘agency’ and pass all their details on to Action Fraud.
  • Contact your bank immediately to try and stop any payments going through – or ask for their help to track any details of what happened.
  • Warn the operators/owners of the website where you placed your CV, that their site is being used for fraudulent activity. (We have heard of Facebook and Gumtree unwittingly hosting some of these interactions).

IPS Summary

Recruitment fraud is growing and shocking in its callousness. These are smart but heartless criminals seeking to exploit vulnerable people hoping a new job will positively affect their lives. The scammers are adept at making a ‘dream job’ seem within the grasp of many of their victims, advertising a handsome salary for little or no skills.
In this particular scam, the desire to believe a job is within reach is usually stronger than the logic which tells you it’s not that easy. Remember this and do not rush into anything you might regret.

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