Staying safe when searching for a job

The majority of jobs scams are carried out online with little or no face to face interaction

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. 18-24 year olds are the most at risk group and the average losses are £4,000.

This brief guide will explain the most common scams and how you can stay safe while searching for your new job.

How do these scams work?

Later in this article we have some practical advice for spotting a scam, but the following list includes some of the most common:

  • 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.
  • Telephone scams
    • 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.
  • Data theft
    • 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.
  • 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.

How to spot a scam

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
  • 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’
  • 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

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
    • Bank details
    • Date of Birth
    • Full address
    • Passport, NI or driving license numbers
    • Photos
  • 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
  • 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 EPSCo
  • 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

What to do if you suspect a job is a 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”

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