What Is a Job Scam?
A job scam is a type of fraud where a company – or someone posing as a company – targets a job hunter. They do so in order to obtain money or free work from the individual.
According to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), job scams were one of the top five fraud attacks in 2022. Those five scams are listed as:
- online shopping
- prizes, sweepstakes, and lotteries
- business and job opportunities
The FTC figures show that consumers in 2022 reported losing almost $8.8 billion to fraud – a rise of more than 30% when compared to 2021. The FTC data also reveals that the number of business impersonation scams (including job scams) nearly quadrupled between Q2 2020 and Q3 2022, rising from 25,798 to 97,779 over the period.
Clearly, job scams need to be firmly on the radar of both businesses that are hiring and individuals who are applying for work if they are to stay safe from fraudsters.
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How Does Job Fraud Work?
Job fraud works by playing on the victim’s need to gain employment and an income. There is often a time pressure linked to this need, which makes it easier for fraudsters to trick individuals into bypassing their usual common sense.
Jobs scams often attempt to make the victim part with money in order to try and gain (usually fictitious) employment.
Who Is Most Likely to Be Affected by Job Fraud?
Individuals who are actively seeking employment are most likely to be affected by job fraud. According to Action Fraud, it is young people (aged 18 to 24) that job scammers are most likely to target. The more urgent the person’s need to land a job, the more likely they are to drop their caution and believe the fraudsters’ lies.
Companies may also be impacted. For example, if a fraudster poses as a genuine business, that company’s reputation could be damaged by the incident.
Extensive List of Common Job Scams
Businesses and job seekers need to be vigilant in looking out for job scams. With that in mind, the job scam list below details some of the most common scams currently in operation.
Fake Job Posting
A fake job posting on a genuine job board or a social media site can be a lucrative opportunity for fraudsters. These fake job ads often sound too good to be true – and they are. The fake job scam hooks the victim in and then asks them to pay an application fee or registration fee. Once they’ve paid, the victim hears nothing more.
Advanced Fee Job Scam
Scammers do their best to obtain money from their victims, and one way they do so is through the advanced fee job scam. It’s a simple premise: The fraudster asks the victim to pay for services that they don’t deliver. The victim pays the money in advance but then never receives the service offered.
Examples of advance fee job scams include fraudsters asking jobseekers to pay for:
- Résumé writing services
- police checks and other security checks
- industry-specific certifications and licenses (such as a license from the state board of contractors for general contractors in the US)
- training courses
Once the victim has handed over their money, the fraudsters vanish without providing the service.
Some advanced fee scams specifically target individuals seeking work overseas, asking for money upfront to help with immigration paperwork, legal expenses, and travel expenses. Again, the criminals take the money and disappear.
Direct Email Job Offer Scam
Job seekers who have uploaded their résumés to online job boards might be used to receiving approaches from recruiters by email. But beware – they could be a job email scam.
In these cases, the scammer may ask for an upfront fee to “process an application” or request sensitive information such as bank account details to “confirm the job offer and enable salary payments”. Victims who provide such details risk finding that their accounts have been emptied.
Salary Payment Scam
The request for bank details to pay a salary isn’t limited to email job scams. Fraudsters will attempt to get hold of bank details however they can, whether it’s over the phone, by email, via text, or using website forms. In all cases, their goal is to lure the victim with the promise of a salary – before draining their account.
Premium Rate Phone Call Scam
One type of fake employer scam involves the victim being asked to call a number for a telephone interview. The job seeker calls and is put on hold, unaware that it is a premium rate number that is costing them a small fortune. Some scammers also carry out lengthy fake interviews to extend the duration of the call.
Job Phishing Scam
Phishing involves fraudsters tricking individuals into handing over sensitive information. Some fraudsters use it to try to access business systems, while others try to obtain bank account information and other details from jobseekers.
In the case of the latter, the fraudster usually reaches out by email, with a job application or job offer scam that directs the victim to a website where they submit their details. Such sites may also install malware on the victim’s device.
Job Offer Text Scam
Not every phishing attempt takes place by email. Jobseekers may also fall victim to scams that take place using text messages, phone calls, or voicemails. Again, the fraudster’s goal is to trick the target into handing over sensitive information and/or money.
Some online job scams feel like a real job. The fraudster engages the victim to work from home, often requiring them to cash checks or purchase equipment and ship it elsewhere. In doing so, the victim is helping the fraudster to launder money – a criminal offense.
Why Should You Be Vigilant About Job Scams?
Victims have reported 17,791 employment scams to the Better Business Bureau’s scam-tracker database since November 2019. The sheer volume of them – as well as the huge potential for financial loss – means that both individuals and businesses need to be vigilant about job scams.
Individuals must guard against not only losing money but also losing time that they could be spending hunting for legitimate roles.
Businesses, meanwhile, need to be careful that their reputations aren’t damaged by fake job adverts using their names. They also need to be on the lookout for any job recruiter scam that targets the business rather than the job seeker.
Signs of Job Scams
If you’re wondering how to know if a job is a scam, there are certain warning signs you can look out for. These include:
- spelling mistakes in job adverts
- non-corporate email addresses, such as Gmail addresses – fraudsters often use disposable email addresses for their nefarious purposes so that they can easily disappear once they have perpetrated the fraud attack
- a request for payment
- an overly fast or immediate job offer
- a premium rate number on the job ad
- a vague or unclear job description
- details that seem too good to be true, whether it’s the salary, working hours, or any other bait
- requests for details of your social profiles, tax records, bank account, or other personal information
Individually, these aren’t surefire ways to tell if a job is a scam, but they should certainly serve as red flags – especially if there’s a combination of them.
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How Do You Protect Yourself Against Job Scams?
Vigilance and common sense are the keys to protecting yourself against job scams. Look out for the warning signs listed above, and don’t let yourself be drawn into anything.
If you’ve taken these job fraud tips on board and spotted a scam, walk away. You can then report the scam to the relevant authority in your area.
What to Do if You Have Been a Victim of Job Scams
If you didn’t spot a scam in time and instead fell victim to it, you’ll need to know how to report job fraud. This differs from country to country.
In the US, for example, the FTC details how to report job scams on its website, providing the ability to do this online. In the UK, you can report scams using the JobsAware portal. Over in Australia, you can find help on the government’s Scamwatch website. Various other countries have their own reporting systems.
Finally, remember that if you’ve fallen victim to a job scam already, you could still become a victim of further fraud. Recovery scams target those who have already lost money, with the promise of recovering it – but then defraud the victim instead.
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