Employment scams


Earlier this year I saw a freelance position for an internet researcher advertised online. I love a good research project, so I wrote and asked for more details about the role.  A few days later I received an email asking me to undertake a short test ‘to consider you for the projects we have’ which I duly undertook.

Online scammer reaching to steal money out of a pocket of a naive internet user.
Image by Adobe Stock.

The response I received was well written, although it came from an @gmail address rather than a company address and I was unable to find a website for the company but the role was advertised on two online UK job boards, I wasn’t asked to hand over money or disclose any personal information and undertaking a test didn’t seem unreasonable to me, so I ignored the slight niggling feeling that something was not quite right. If nothing came of my efforts I told myself, then I had gained some experience working on what I had been told was a live research project.

Another few days passed and as I heard nothing, I made contact again, asking for feedback on the work I had done but I received no reply. The niggling feeling intensified, so I contacted the jobs boards and asked them to investigate. One organisation removed the job advertisement as it did not meet their standards for inclusion on their website. The other suspended the advertisers account immediately and tried to make contact with them but heard nothing back, later concluding ‘We haven’t got enough information either way to determine whether the job advert was genuine or not. However, we can say that the advert doesn’t match job adverts they previously posted nor the sector in which those job adverts were based, hence why we suspended the account as a precaution.’ In both cases the jobs boards signposted me to information on their websites about staying safe when searching for work online.

The thing that unsettled me most about my experience was there appeared to be no moderation process in place — anyone it seemed could post on the jobs boards, both of which are well known and it is entirely down to the person seeking work to suss out whether the advertised role is genuine or not. Pretty scary huh? In my case nothing untoward appears to happened and I have learned from my experience to be cautious but it could have been much worse, which is the reason I have written this blog post.

Scams: spotting the signs

A recent survey by ActionFraud found that more than 67% of people now look for work online but are unaware of the growing number of ‘fake jobs’ or ‘job scams’ with over 700,000 jobseekers reporting losing more than £500,000 through job scams. And as part of their Jobs Scam campaign the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) worked with JobsAware and Cifas, to understand the impact of scams and how information collected as part of a scam, is then used by scammers. The campaign focused on the signs of a potential scam, which included illegitimate contact details, poorly written job adverts and being asked for money, as well as highlighting the importance of remaining vigilant and raising awareness of signs of potential scams.

Image by Gov.UK
Illustration showing the signs of job scams.

Common scams

  • Fake job adverts
    These are listed by fraudsters posing as employers and asking for personal information such as national insurance details, address, date of birth, bank statements, passport details and driving licences as pre-employment checks to enable them to steal your identity.
  • Advance fee scams
    Fraudsters ask for money up front for things like CV writing, admin charges and carrying out background security checks.
  • Premium rate phone interview scams
    Scammers send texts or missed call messages to victims asking them to call premium rate numbers for an initial phone interview with costs to unsuspecting victims totalling hundreds of pounds.

How to know if a job advert is fake

Things to look out for include:

  • communication is by email only
  • poor spelling, grammar and a generally unprofessional look
  • a personal email address for example @gmail @yahoo or @hotmail rather than a company one such as info@izzywizzyva.org
  • the requirements or qualifications seem too simple or it is stated no experience is required
  • fake company website domains – always check out a company thoroughly to be sure it is genuine and if at all in doubt, telephone and ask to speak to the personnel or HR department
  • an email congratulating you on ‘getting the job,’ before you have met the employer
  • fraudsters who target social media websites, such as Linkedin, pretending to be head hunters or recruitment agencies, allowing them access to profiles, career histories and CVs and enabling them to tailor their offers to job seekers.

Stay safe

You should never divulge private information such as your national insurance number, driver’s licence number, bank account information, credit card information, passport number or date of birth on your CV. However, before making an offer of employment an employer must check that a job applicant is allowed to work in the UK. Information about the checks employers can do on employees can be found below

Job scams prey on job hunters who want to believe the perfect job is out there for them, even when things don’t feel right. If in doubt, take your time, ask questions — what tasks your will have to perform, will you be paid a salary or will your pay be based on commission, who you will be paid by and when you will receive your first payment. Thoroughly check out anything that is causing you concern and don’t be afraid to follow your instincts. If a job looks too good to be true, sadly, the chances are it probably is.

What to do if you think you have fallen victim to a job scam

If you suspect you have been targeted, or have been the victim of a job scam, there are a number of ways to report this.

If you applied for a job via an online jobs board, you should report it there too, so that others don’t get scammed.

Further information and sources

© Toni Louise Abram at Izzy Wizzy. All Rights Reserved.


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