Photo: Bill Hinton/Getty.
As employers make more and more use of digital technology to advertise vacancies, the number of online job scams is rocketing. According to Safer Jobs (a government-supported non-profit organisation set up to protect people looking for work online):
- There were 1241 reported scams targeting jobseekers in the year to September 2016 (three times as many as in the previous 12 months).
- Victims of scams lose on average £4,000.
- Jobseekers aged 18 to 25 were hardest hit.
Common ways scammers target jobhunters
So if you are looking for work online, it's vital to know how to recognise the hallmarks of fake job ads. Fraudsters typically seek to part hapless jobseekers from their hard-earned cash by:
- asking for advance payments for fake or non-existent documents such as police checks, visas, travel expenses and training;
- obtaining critical personal data, such as the applicant’s bank details, under false pretences – often through fake emails, websites and social media profiles, or malicious software; or
- having the jobseeker phone up for a fake phone interview on a premium rate number.
Scammers also use social media sites to piece together the employment history of jobseekers in order to build a seemingly legitimate relationship with them.
How to stay safe online
Thankfully, a bit of straightforward digital savvy should keep you safe from whatever the bad guys throw at you:
- Use a reputable recruitment company which is a member of a bona fide trade association. Look for an association logo on their site and search the association by member to verify that the company is legit. Any such company should be working hard to protect its reputation and have standards in place to prevent job scams. And you can report them to their trade association if they don’t come up to scratch.
- Make sure your CV doesn’t contain any of the following personal information: date of birth; your full address; passport number; driving licence number, national insurance number, marital status and number of children, your credit card or bank account numbers, your weight and height, or your hair and eye colour. If this seems extreme, bear in mind that too much personal information may lead to identity theft, where fraudsters can obtain your details, steal your identity and spend your money, take out loans or buy goods in your name.
- Never pay money upfront. According to Safer Jobs, “employers and agencies should pay you, not the other way round. If asked to pay for security checks, visas, training, or anything else, you should research the job, the company, and never use any associated company suggested to you without conducting independent thorough research.”
- Always do your homework. Be very wary if you are offered a job you did not apply for out of the blue from a person you do not know, and without any interview or meeting. If in any doubt, always check out the company supposedly advertising the job, verify the phone number on the company website and call the employer to check the job exists. Other tell-tale signs of fraud could be poorly written job adverts, and generic email addresses (such as Hotmail or Gmail) that can’t be traced to a business.
- Never agree to phone a would-be employer for an interview. If an employer wants you to work for them, they will call you.
- Never provide private details up front – any requests for personal data ahead of an interview or registration meeting (if an agency) should be treated with suspicion. Until you have the job, keep your bank details safe and only provide identity details once you have met face to face.
Wishing you safe and successful jobhunting!