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Consumer Rights.

Updated: 4 Mar 2021

Job scams and employment fraud

Job seekers aged between 18 and 24 are most likely to be targeted by this scam, with victims losing around £4,000 on average. Use our tips to avoid job scams.
Which?Editorial team

Job scams and employment fraud

More than two thirds of us are now going online to look for employment, according to Safer Jobs – an organisation set up by the Metropolitan Police to help combat employment fraud. 

But as more and more of us use the internet to search for new job opportunities, this has also opened the door to fraudsters.

Fraudsters often recruit for a ‘dream job’, advertising roles with a starting salary of around £100,000 that require few qualifications, skills or experience. 

Sound too good to be true? Unfortunately, that’s because it most probably is.

Job scams prey on hope

Looking for a new job can be both stressful and exciting with individuals eager to believe the perfect job is out there for them –  even if it sounds unlikely or unrealistic. 

According to a survey carried out by Safer Jobs, 98% of respondents said that even if they were suspicious of a job advert, they would continue with an application despite feeling the job may not be legitimate.

This could be due to people feeling overly hopeful or optimistic that despite suspicions, the job may still be real. 

When you’re focussed on getting a new job, the desire to believe that something is legitimate is very strong, which is what the fraudsters rely on. 

Some people have even turned up to the workplace ready to start their new job only to find that the employer has never heard of them.

Key Information

What does a job scam look like?

Advance-fee scams

  • you’re asked for money by fraudsters to write your CV or carry out security and police checks
  • you’re asked to pay for expensive training programmes which don’t exist
  • for overseas jobs, fraudsters require you to pay for immigration lawyers
  • again for overseas jobs, fraudsters ask you to pay for travel-agent fees.

Premium-rate phone scams

  • As the potential candidate, you call a number assuming you’re going to have an initial phone interview, but you’re kept on hold for a long period of time before you realise what’s happened
  • In some cases, job seekers will be duped into going through a fake interview on the phone, which could last up to an hour at a cost of hundreds of pounds.

Money laundering

  • fraudsters employ you on a work-from-home basis. You assume that you’re employed in a genuine job, but you’re really being used to launder money
  • you’re asked to buy office equipment and ship it to a specific address, or cash a cheque not knowing you’re actually committing a crime in the process.

Salary-payment scam

  • fraudsters may also ask for your bank account details to set up salary payments. They will use these details to steal money from your account.

What shouldn’t I put on my CV?

While you will want to sell yourself and impress future employers/recruiters, providing too much personal information could leave you vulnerable to scams. 

Too much personal information could 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.

Remember your CV should be a summary of why you’re the best candidate for that job. In most cases you should not be asked to include:  

  • your date of birth
  • your full address
  • passport number
  • driving licence number
  • National Insurance number
  • marital status and number of children
  • credit card or bank account numbers
  • weight and height
  • hair and eye colour
  • headshot

Key Information

Who's targeted by job scams?

Alarmingly, almost three quarters of job hunters admit they wouldn’t recognise the signs of a job scam.

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.

Next steps if you fall foul of a job scam

If you think you’ve been scammed, you must stop all communication with the scammers immediately. 

If you can, take a note of their details and report them to Action Fraud.

If you’ve given them any money or shared your bank account details with them, contact your bank immediately.

You should also report the attempted scam to any website where you’ve listed your CV.

Follow our five steps to protect yourself from employment fraud:

  1. Be suspicious if the employer or agent provides a webmail email address such as @yahoo or @hotmail as a point of contact.
  2. Check any documents for poor spelling and grammar – this is often a sign that fraudsters are at work.
  3. Check official records on websites such as companies house or overseas registries to confirm that the organisation offering you the job actually exists. If it does, contact the organisation directly through officially listed contact details to confirm the job offer is genuine.
  4. If you’re in discussion about a job abroad, ask the embassy representing the country where you believe you will be working how to obtain a visa and how much it costs. Check that the answers the potential employer gives you are the same – if they’re not, it’s a strong indication of fraud.
  5. Tell the employer that you will make your own travel and accommodation arrangements. Beware if they try hard to dissuade you, or tell you that you have to use the agency they refer you to.

For further help go to Safer Jobs, which provides specific advice for candidates and recruitment professionals.