Job scams: do you know the warning signs?

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It's easier than ever to fall for a job scam. Online methods can make scammers highly successful and even the most tech savvy can be duped. The problem is so prevalent that DBS teamed up with JobsAware and Cifas (the UK's fraud prevention community) to publish a press release alerting the general public to this problem in November 2021. Here, they mention that seasonal job scams in 2020 increased 88% over 2019 numbers. And these statistics are expected to increase still further.

In addition, in a May 2021 article, The Independent cites a Disclosure Scotland study which found that 74% of jobseekers applied for jobs during the pandemic that weren't genuine. 

Job scams are fake job opportunities that trick you into handing over money, personal data or working for free (in a trial period) without a genuine job offer at the end of it. And according to recent research, they’re on the rise. One survey by non-profit organisation JobsAware found that between March and October 2020 the number of fake job adverts increased by 70%.

Sadly the coronavirus pandemic created perfect conditions for fraudsters to strike. Candidates seeking opportunities to work from home - away from the formal structure of a physical workplace or face-to-face interviews - are more easily taken in.

Fake job adverts are found online - particularly on websites like LinkedIn and even on well-known job websites. So, it’s crucial to know what to watch for to avoid being hoodwinked. Let’s take a look at the 5 most common warning signs.

Job Scams: The 5 most common warning signs

1. It sounds too good to be true

We all want to find our dream job, but beware any job advertised that pays a hefty salary without calling for relevant experience, qualifications or skills to match. While it’s true that some starter roles don’t call for previous experience, flagging up the low barrier to entry so prominently can indicate a scam.

2. You’re asked to pay an advance fee or to work with no pay for a trial period

If you’re asked to pay a registration fee most likely you are being scammed and there is no job behind the offer. As far as other requests for money, you might think employers can charge you for training but according to acas"Employers can only deduct money for training courses if it was agreed in the contract or in writing beforehand. For example, an employer could ask someone to agree in writing before a training course to pay back costs if they leave within 6 months."

If you're asked to pay for a uniform, according to Worksmart, "It is possible for an employer to charge for uniform, but only as long as there is a clear term in the written employment contract document permitting this (although your hourly pay must not fall below the National Minimum Wage as a result of any deduction)." 

You also want to be wary of jobs that only pay when you make sales. You should not be working without pay (unless you've accepted a position as a volunteer) even in a trial period or for commission. This is not legal. According to "Commission-only jobs are perfectly legal, so long as employers respect National Minimum Wage legislation." This means employers are legally obliged to ensure you receive at least the Minimum Wage for every hour you work.

3. You’re asked to give away personal information

Sadly, online job seekers are a prime target for scammers who are looking to steal people's identities.

Sharing personal data like your date of birth, passport number or National Insurance number increases your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. Genuine employers may ask you for some of this information if you do end up working for them. So, make absolutely sure they’re genuine before handing your details over.

4. You’re asked to call a premium rate number

In our socially-distanced times, phone interviews can play a key part in the recruitment process. But if you’re asked to call a premium rate number - then kept on hold for long enough to make you start worrying about the phone bill, or are kept talking for a lengthy interview - this can be a sign that all’s not right.

5. The employer seems unprofessional

Many of us use gmail or hotmail email addresses, but a serious recruiter or employer shouldn’t use a webmail email address in their advert. Legitimate recruiters are more likely to send messages from addresses with registered domains, like we do at HR GO via You should always see their company name after the "@" symbol.

Another warning sign could be spelling mistakes or poor grammar in job adverts or documents. However, a lack of mistakes is not necessarily a sign of legitimacy. Bear in mind that fraudsters are becoming more slick and sophisticated in how they communicate.

Do your research so you don't fall for job scams 

Running a free check on Companies House will tell you if a potential employer actually exists. Online reviews written by other employees are another way to get peace of mind, but do bear in mind that they can be faked.

If the company is hiring workers remotely, you can also check their physical location on Google Maps. If their business address is a residence, that's a major red flag. And this is exactly how employees of a fake design company recently discovered their employer was a fraud. You can read more about their experience in this BBC news article: The elaborate con that tricked dozens into working for a fake design agency.

Is the employer actually representing the company they say they are? If you have doubts, you should also contact that organisation directly to confirm that the job that's being advertised is real.

The best way to stay safe from job scams is by using a reputable recruitment agency, like HR GO. Like other trustworthy recruiters, clearly we only work with genuine clients who have real jobs to offer.

Job hunting is always stressful, and if you find what seems like a great opportunity it might be tempting to cast aside your doubts. But knowing the warning signs to look out for will make you far less likely to fall victim to a scam. And this will free you up to land a job that’s right for you in the long term.

Stay safe

Find more information about avoiding job scams (or report a job scam) at the non-profit organisation JobsAware. If you suspect that you have been the victim of a scam, you can also report it to Action Fraud.

Interviewing online? You might also want to check out our blog: Video interviewing tips for candidates: Don't ignore these warning signs.

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