We’re living in a tough time. With the effects of coronavirus, lockdown, the recession and Brexit companies are struggling to afford their workers wages. As such there has been a rapid increase in redundancies and job losses. In fact as Rupert Jones reported in the Guardian:
Close to half a million redundancies are likely to be announced in the autumn, although the number could end up exceeding 700,000, according to a study that lays bare the scale of the Covid-19 jobs crisis facing the UK.
These job cuts are on top of 240,000 redundancies officially recorded by the government up until June. That means the total redundancy figure for 2020 could top one million.
However, with this comes an opportunity for criminals to exploit people’s needs and desperation. This is not only really cruel but vile and, as people and a business that want to help others, we despise this.
So here’s our guide, filled with checks and resources, to help you stay safe from theses horrendous predators.
If you believe you have been the victim of one of these scams or any kind of fraud please contact the Police, or for professional advice contact Action Fraud UK on 0300 123 2040 Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm
The Types of Job Scams
According to Safer Jobs, a not-for-profit organisation set up by the Metropolitan Police, 75% of people now begin their job searches online.
Whilst this allows access to a huge range of opportunities, it also creates a more anonymous space where job scams and fraud are becoming increasingly prevalent. According to Action Fraud, job seekers aged between 18 and 24 are the most likely to be targeted by job scams, losing around £4,000 on average.
In fact of 1000 people surveyed by Safer Jobs and Citizens Advice, 1 in 5 had fallen for a job scam.
The majority of jobs scams are carried out online with little or no face to face interaction.
This brief guide will explain the most common scams and how you can stay safe while searching for your new job.
Work From Home Scam
These scams are on the rise due to more and more companies having to offer remote and home working. So, general advice, whenever you see a company offering home working, be extra careful and do your research into the company.
These scams usually start as an offer to make easy money by starting your own business by working from your own home.
The scheme organiser will make you pay an advance fee, avoid paying you for the work you’ve done, make you buy worthless products or make you sign up others to the scheme before you’re paid.
The most common form of the “work from home” scam are pyramid schemes sometimes also labelled as ‘multi-level marketing schemes’.
The common traits of these scams are:
- Any advert that tells you that you can sit back and let a business run itself is a good sign that fraudsters are at work.
- Be wary of paying money in advance. The vast majority of legitimate employers shouldn’t require you to pay anything to start working for them.
- If you’ve got involved with a scheme you suspect is fraudulent, keep any relevant letters, emails or documents as evidence. Don’t get other people involved. Report it immediately and cease all contact.
- You’ve seen an advert online or via social media that says you can earn a specific or minimum amount of money by running your own business.
- You’re told to call a mobile number (beginning with 07) or respond to a web-based email such as @yahoo or @gmail. Genuine businesses usually advertise a landline number, a freephone or base rate number and/or their own email domain.
- You’re given a reason to pay up front, such as to register, buy customer leads, set up a website, buy products to sell, or get an instruction manual.
A letter, advert or website asks if you’re interested in making easy money by working from home, or setting up your own online business.
The scheme looks very flexible and easy to work with, offering you the opportunity to choose when you work and enabling you to fit your work around your existing life, but may involve paying a fee to get you started.
The work itself could involve filling envelopes, assembling products or selling goods or services through your own website. In some cases, fraudsters may tell you there are faults with what you’ve done to avoid paying you. In other cases, the products you’ve bought or made are worthless.
Fraudsters may eventually sell your details on to others, so be alert to offers elsewhere.
Advance Fee Scams
These involve being asked for money up-front, before you start. It can be for CV processing, admin fees, visa fees, training programmes, equipment or set up costs.
No recruiter or job board will ever ask you for fees as a job seeker. If you are looking for employment, YOU WILL NOT BE CHARGED!
With recruitment agencies and job boards, their fees come from the employers/their clients.
Do note however that DBS checks (used to be called CRB checks) are a legitimate expense, however, even then the fraudsters can pressure you into it. More often than not the employer will cover the cost of your DBS check, but there is no guarantee of this.
These are quite common as they will ask you to call in for an interview. This should be the first alarm bell for yourself as it should be the employer calling you.
You may be asked to phone in for an interview only to be put on hold (or kept on the phone for a long time) – if it is a premium rate number then your bill could be a big surprise.
Always double check the number and it’s rates. If it’s a local number then you’re more likely to be safe. If you’re ever unsure about the cost of the call, check the number out.
As recruiters we deal with a lot of personal information. A lot of this information is extremely sensitive. Criminals know this and as such will try and con you into divulging everything they need to sell your personal details on to fraudsters.
If you give out personal information such as date of birth, address, passport number or bank account details, this can be used to steal your identity and take out loans or credit cards.
This is why you should never, EVER, put any of these details on a CV. When you approach a recruitment agency always check to see if they are accredited. They should be accredited by at least one of the following, The REC, APSCo or TEAM. More on this can be found below.
Illegal Money Movement
If you are asked to write or cash cheques, make wire transfers or purchase items with company money, this could be money laundering or another illegal activity. This often helps cover their tracks as it will be in your name and they will then move on leaving you to the police or to creditors and bailiffs.
The fraudsters manipulate jobseekers into inadvertently committing crimes on their behalf, all the while believing they are working in a genuine job.
In these kind of scams, victims are tricked into believing they have successfully secured a work-from-home job. They are then used to buy office equipment and arrange its shopping or to cash cheques, inadvertently taking part in money laundering.
With the rise in working from home resulting from the coronavirus, it’s likely these particular scams will be even harder to identify.
How To Spot A Scam
There’s an old phrase you might have heard “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. This most definitely applies to job scams.
I say again so it’s clear, If a job seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Here are some of the most important signs that the job may not be a real opportunity:
- Email contact is from a general address such as @gmail or @yahoo.
- You are asked to pay any money in advance
- You are promised high pay for not much work and they use examples and testimonials to back up their claims
- There are grammar or spelling errors in communications
- They ask for bank details early in the process (eventually, all employers will need these details, but not early on)
- There is not a clear, well written job specification
- Look for spelling and grammar errors in the job description. If there’s a lot then it might be fake.
- You are offered the job with no interview or after a single phone call or email conversation
- You are being pressured to act immediately
- There are claims such as ‘no experience needed’ for massive amounts of money
- The job is based completely at home and you are never invited to their office or place of work (note that not all home based work is fraudulent, but you should be more alert when that is the case)
- They don’t have a website, or their website is very new – you can check these online using free tools
- You can’t find detailed information online (in particular, with Companies House)
Working from home can be great, but beware of jobs that advertise huge incomes for very little work
How To Stay Safe
Keeping your wits about you is the best way to stay safe, however, always double check. More often than not a simple Google search, a search on companies house and a check on accredited bodies for legitimate recruitment agencies will keep you safe.
We advise some simple steps that can help you to stay safe while searching for a job.
- Make sure you have appropriate anti-virus and security software installed on the device you are using
- Do not open attachments or embedded media from a source you don’t trust
- Verify that a company is legitimate (with Companies House or, if abroad, with the UK embassy in that country)
- Do not include the following on your CV
- Full address (keep to town and county only)
- Passport, NI or driving license numbers
- Check email addresses and recipient lists on any unsolicited emails
- Ask your family and friends if they think something is suspicious
- If you are asked to call someone, check the number you are dialling is not a premium rate number (generally, standard landlines and mobile numbers are OK, although others are also ok – for example, Morgan Jones has a freephone 0808 number. It is best to check online)
- Always ask for a defined job specification
- Avoid acting quickly – if you are being pressured to do so then that is a warning sign
- If you’ve been accepted for a job without talking to anyone, or only one brief conversations, that’s a huge warning sign
- Never move money from or to your own account
- If you are contacted by a recruitment agency, check that they are members of the REC, TEAM or APSCo
- If they ask for money, walk away. There are no circumstances in which a legitimate employer will ask for money up front.
- Be extremely vigilant on social media or chat rooms – legitimate employers may use these for hiring, but you will usually be directed elsewhere to apply officially.
- Very few employers will reach out directly to candidates, but recruitment agencies will. If you are contacted by an agency, do an immediate check online for the company. Use the accredited bodies links above.
What To Do If You Suspect A Job Scam
If you suspect a job is fraudulent then you should trust your instinct. If they are offering fast, hassle free money, you need to take a step back and check all the above points.
Always report suspected fraud on the Action Fraud website or by calling
0300 123 2040 .
Action Fraud will provide advice, but if you feel that your personal data may have been compromised then you may need to take appropriate action such as deactivating bank cards or accounts. Please do this only under the advice of the relevant organisation – this is a very serious matter and we can not comment on what to do in individual cases.
But our most simple advice is the same you probably heard as a child –
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”