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The next threat from Covid – job scams

These are the conditions in which fraudsters thrive

Felicity Hannah
Tuesday 11 August 2020 12:52 BST
When jobs are scarce and there any many people searching for them, it can be tempting to look for employment anywhere
When jobs are scarce and there any many people searching for them, it can be tempting to look for employment anywhere (AP)

There’s a virus rampaging across the globe, closing down the economy and making the lives of everyone more difficult and for some more desperate. And into the cracks caused by all this misery rush the criminals who make such an effective living by feeding off the savings of hardworking people.

All scams are cruel and repellent but in the current climate the job scam is perhaps one of the cruellest. It relies on people’s growing desperation to steal from them, holding out hope as a lure.

The Bank of England forecast this week that unemployment could almost double by Christmas, potentially rising from 1.35 million jobseekers at the moment to 2.5 million by the end of the year. That would make it the highest level in seven years, yet some analysts and economists predict it could even be worse than that.

Many people are desperate right now and many more will face the challenge of finding a new role in a tough climate in the coming months.

It’s never been more important to understand the risks posed by job scams.

OK, what’s a job scam?

There are a number of different recruitment and employment scams, and the criminals behind them augment and adapt their schemes constantly. They all use the hope and optimism of jobseekers to commit theft.

Consumer champion Which? warns of four common forms of employment fraud. There are advance-fee scams, where you’re asked for money up front for services such as security and police checks, immigration services (for overseas jobs) or training programmes.

There’s no job, just the constant request for further fees until the victim realises they are being tricked.

Next there are phone scams, where job seekers are asked to call a number for an interview but then they are either kept on hold or subjected to a lengthy interview – all the while unwittingly paying for a premium-rate phone line.

Another danger is that fraudsters posing as recruiters ask for bank details, claiming they need to register the victim on their payroll but then they use that information to steal money from their accounts.

Finally, some 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 can you stay safe from recruitment scams?

If you are applying for a lot of roles and sharing your details and CV across a number of jobs websites and less regulated websites then there is a risk you leave yourself more open to identity theft.

So it’s really important to avoid sharing details such as your date of birth, passport, National Insurance or driving licence numbers, or any other sensitive data. If a potential recruiter asks for such information then take the time to absolutely be sure that they are genuine before sharing.

One of the best ways to stay safe from job scams is to use a reputable recruitment company, according to Safer Jobs, the non-profit joint law enforcement organisation set up to help tackle the issue of job scams.

However, when jobs are scarce and there any many people searching for them, it can be tempting to look for employment anywhere. And that makes searchers more vulnerable.

Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, says there are certain tells that may show when an opportunity is in fact employment fraud.

These include poor spelling and grammar on any forms and documents, and the use of generic email addresses such as Yahoo or Hotmail instead of a clear corporate identity.

When you’re offered a role, Action Fraud’s advice is to do your homework. For example, if the job is in a different country then speak to the UK embassy of that country to find out how to obtain a visa and what the cost of that process is. If it is different to what you’re being told by the recruiter then that is a red flag.

Another red flag should be if the new potential employer is adamant that they should make all your arrangements for you, such as travel and accommodation.

If you have been offered a role then check official business listings to be sure that the company is genuine. But don’t stop there, it is important to then contact the organisation directly through its officially listed contact details to make sure that the role is genuine.

Finally, if this advice is too late and you have fallen victim to a job scam then it is important to take the time to report it to Action Fraud. That will help UK police forces to stay abreast of these kinds of scams and to ensure the public are made aware of any Covid crisis spike in criminal activity.

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