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Spot the Scams – Don’t be caught out in your job search

Times are tough out there for job hunters. Not only are you up against high unemployment but you also have to contend with fake jobs and scams designed to prey on you. Sadly, it seems that wherever there is an opportunity to make money, there will be a scammer to take advantage. Here’s some advice on spotting and avoiding them…

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The first thing to remember is that if a job is too good to be true – it probably is. So a job offering a large salary in return for not much work probably isn’t legitimate. Quite often these will be linked to ‘work from home’ positions often requiring basic admin/computing skills and a telephone. These vacancies can prey on your desire to make money in the comfort of your own home. However there can be undisclosed costs involved; telephone charges, printing costs, postage fees, etc.

The ‘scam jobs’ can mirror the terms of these jobs but never actually deliver. You may be asked to pay an up-front fee for ‘training materials’, as a prerequisite for working from home, but once you pay – no job appears. Alternatively you will have to call a premium rate number (usually beginning 0871, 0872 or 0873 but can also include 07 numbers) and then stay on hold for a long period costing you money.

Other scams can ask for you, the applicant, to do a task in order to get the job. These are often marketed as reputable jobs like ‘Finance Manager’ but don’t appear to require any special skills or experience. The employer will explain that you need to pass a test in order to be considered, which may consist of receiving money from them (often in the form of a cheque) and transferring it on to a ‘client’ via bank transfer. This is a form of money laundering often called ‘Money Muling’. You are fooled into thinking you are not losing any of your own funds as the employer is paying into your account when in fact two things may happen:

  • You may be receiving illegal funds (proceeds from crime) and then sending your own ‘clean’ money out. You’re still liable for this dirty money and may end up paying it back – or even worse, be prosecuted yourself
  • Alternatively, and more commonly, the scammer fools you into transferring money out before their payment has cleared. They then cancel their payment leaving you out of pocket

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Remember, you should never have to pay any money to get a job. A legitimate recruitment agency will never charge to get you a job; their costs are always covered by the employer. And don’t be pressured by an employer saying that time is a factor and the sooner you comply the better. Take your time to check them out:

  • Use our checklist to help you identify if they are a real company. This includes; checking their website, physical address, social network presence, phone numbers, and Companies House
  • Ask! If you’re unsure of a job you can always ask us at the Careers and Placements Service. We will never advertise a job we know to be fraudulent but scammers may try to get by this by advertising a authentic looking job description in order to go under our radar. Let us know as soon as possible and we can advise you and remove the advert
  • Look on the web. Other people may have had the same experience and shared it to help stop this behaviour. Try forums like The Student Room for advice or ask on your other social networks (be wary of defamation though)

It’s important to say that anyone can be caught out by these scams. Fraudsters have to be extremely clever in order to get away with it so there’s no shame in falling foul of one of them. If you do find yourself, or think that you’ve been a victim of, a fraud don’t be afraid to contact the police via the Action Fraud website. They can offer you help and support up to 12 months after the crime.

Most companies out there are offering real jobs with genuine organisations. A authentic organisation will usually be picked up when you do your research into the company but don’t be afraid to question the process if you’re not sure. If in doubt, don’t put yourself at risk, just walk away.

photo credit: GabrielaP93 and laverrue via cc (Images cropped)

Jerome Price Photograph

Jerome Price is the Online and Digital Content Manager in the Careers and Placements Service at the University of Hertfordshire.

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