Job Scams and How to Avoid Them

Jul 29, 2023

In today’s competitive job market, finding employment can be a stressful and overwhelming task. As a job seeker, you are looking not only for a good job that matches your skillset and pays a good wage but an opportunity that will allow you to progress professionally. Unfortunately, there are individuals and even organisations that focus on exploiting job seekers by engaging them in job scams. The prevalence of job scams has increased over the years, which has led to significant financial and emotional damage. In this post, we aim to raise awareness of job scams, share tips on how to identify and avoid job scams and share some resources for further help and advice if you’ve become a victim of an employment scam. 

What is a Job Scam? 

A job scam is a fraudulent scheme that is designed to exploit job seekers by offering fake employment opportunities, with the intention of deceiving people for financial gain or personally identifiable information. There are many different types of job scams that are perpetrated by individuals or companies who act as legitimate employers or recruitment agencies. 

Once a job scammer has possession of your personal information such as your bank account or passport details, they can then use this information for other fraudulent activities.  

Many job seekers are unaware of the fact that they have been scammed due to the strategies adopted by job scammers. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you are vigilant and check the legitimacy of the jobs that you apply for. This is even more the case if the job description seems too good to be true. 

Job Scams targeting Students and Graduates 

Students and recent graduates are often targeted as their lack of work experience and experience in sending applications is seen as a vulnerability. Students are typically under more pressure to get a job to financially support themselves during their studies. Likewise, graduates are often a target as the competition for graduate jobs is fierce and the pressure to land a good job to justify the investment in their university experience is high. 

With this said, any job seeker, no matter what their level of experience is can become a victim of an employment scam. 

Examples of Job Scams 

Here are some types of job scams to look out for and avoid:

  • Fake job adverts

    Job scams often begin with an enticing job listing that promises lucrative job opportunities and benefits such as the ability to work from home, financial bonuses and training budgets. These job ads can be found in various settings including online job boards, social media platforms, via emails, direct contact and even through offline channels.

    Job scammers can acquire your personal information such as your national insurance number, bank details, date of birth and address.
  • Advance fee scams

    Advance fee scams are also known as upfront payment scams where the scammer will request payment from the target in advance, promising a service that they never deliver. This type of scam is not limited to job scams, but within this context, it could involve a job scammer pretending to be an employer or a recruiter asking job seekers to fund various parts of the job application process, such as conducting a background check, arranging visas or paying for training materials.
  •  Premium rate job interviews

    Premium rate job interviews involve scammers tricking job seekers into engaging in costly phone interviews that generate revenue for the scammer. This scam typically unfolds in the following way: The scammer will post a fake listing on a site. They will then contact applicants to inform them that they have been shortlisted for an interview and provide a premium rate number for the interviewee to call. Once the scammer has the job seeker on the phone, they will prolong the interview by asking unnecessary and irrelevant questions in order to rack up the phone charges.

    Oftentimes, the scammer will tell the job seeker that they have been successful in the interview and will attempt to get even more money by engaging in advance fee scams as described above.
  • Identity theft

    Identity theft is a serious crime whereby victims have their personal information stolen and used by fraudsters often resulting in financial loss, damage to credit history and emotional distress.

    Some Job scammers will pose as recruiters or hiring managers and request personal information as part of the job application process. This could involve bank account details or passport information.

    Another way fraudsters can get hold of your personal information is through Phishing scams. This is where a scammer will deceive a job seeker into providing personal information. This could be done by sending job seekers an email or direct message on social media to a fake website that appears to be legit, tricking job seekers into entering their personal details. This type of scam is usually very sophisticated, and scammers will often impersonate legitimate companies to give themselves more credibility. 
  • Fake job offers

    Scammers will often offer fraudulent job offers to candidates, and then ask them for their personal information as part of the onboarding process in order to set up Payroll. 

Warming signs and red flags indicating a possible job scam

Here are some examples of things to look out for that could indicate a job scam: 

  • Poor spelling or grammar – When reviewing a job advert, look out for spelling mistakes and poor grammar. If there are any hyperlinks within the job post, hover over them to check the URL before clicking on them. If the URL looks dodgy or is different to the company they claim to represent, do not click on it. 
  • Messages from personal email addresses – if someone claiming to be a recruiter emails you from their personal email address, be very wary. Typically recruiters will only ever email you from their work email address. However, even if you are sent a message from a work address still do some research to determine if the organisation is legitimate. 
  • Phone numbers from a different area code to the location of the job being advertised 
  • URLs to sites that are not secure – if you end up on a site that has “http://” instead of “https://”, be cautious. This is a potential sign of a site that is not secure. Do further research into the company and check their social media profiles. 
  • Companies that do not have a physical location. Search online for the company’s location. If they claim to be a fully remote company, still check for a location that the company is registered at. 
  • Unsolicited emails – if you are being sent email communications from job boards or recruitment agencies that you have not signed up for, be very cautious. 
  • Being offered a job without completing a job interview – legitimate companies will always want to interview you. 

Tips for protecting yourself from job scams

  • Research the employer. Check if they have a credible website that is secure. Check if they have a physical location, check to see if they have an online presence with social media profiles and articles online
  • Check official records on sites such as companies house if you are unsure about the legitimacy of a company. 
  • Never give out your personal information such as bank details before confirming the legitimacy of a company and being made a formal offer. 
  • Never pay for things such as background checks and training, this is typically paid for by the company. 
  • Do not agree to a background check unless you have met the employer in an interview setting.
  • Be wary of job postings that are emailed to you out of the blue.
  • Check and research everything and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

Information to avoid putting on your CV to protect yourself from Recruitment Scams

  1. A photo – refrain from including a photo of yourself on your CV. Photos provide scammers with identifiable information which could be useful to scammers who are committing identity theft. 
  2. Your full address – in the past, before online applications, it was common practice to put your full postcode on your CV. However, nowadays it is no longer needed and could be used by scammers for identity theft. 
  3. Your age/date of birth – your age is a protected characteristic, therefore prospective employers do not need to know this information.
  4. Personal information about your marital status or family – keep the focus of your based on your skills and achievements in a professional setting and avoid sharing details of your family or home life even though it could make you seem more relatable. 

What to do if you get caught in a job scam 

  • Stop all communication with the job scammer immediately. Do not communicate with them again. 
  • If you have sent them any money, contact your bank immediately. Inform them of your situation and seek advice on protecting your accounts and preventing any unauthorised transactions. Speak to your bank’s fraud team about updating and strengthening your online banking details. 
  • Monitor your bank accounts and report any signs of identity theft or unauthorised transactions. 
  • Seek Legal Advice If you believe you have suffered financial losses or other significant damages due to the job scam.

Final Thoughts 

Unfortunately, Job scams are a harsh reality in today’s competitive job market, but with awareness and vigilance, you can protect yourself from falling victim to them. 

Reduce your chances of being exploited by staying informed, researching potential employers, and being cautious when sharing personal information or making financial transactions.

Always remember, a legitimate employer will focus mainly on your skills and experiences and as such will be keen to set up multiple interviews with you to assess your suitability for the role.
They won’t demand money or sensitive personal details upfront. It can be tough when looking for a job. Especially if you have financial pressures and need to secure employment quickly. Taking the steps to prevent recruitment fraud can protect you financially and emotionally from scammers.

If you are struggling to find work and would benefit from career coaching, get in touch with us today!

Useful Resources:

Citizens advice consumer helpline


Action Fraud on Recruitment scams

Featured image by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

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