Job scams: do you know the warning signs?

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We already know that if you’re looking for a job in a tough economic climate you face more competition than usual. But the bad news is that you may also run an increased risk of being scammed by fraudsters.

Job scams are fake job opportunities that trick you into handing over money or personal data without a genuine job offer at the end of it. And according to recent research, they’re on the rise. One survey by non-profit organisation SAFERjobs finds that between March and October 2020 the number of fake job adverts increased by 70%.

Sadly the coronavirus pandemic has created perfect conditions for fraudsters to strike. Candidates desperate to find work may be more willing to believe all job opportunities are legitimate, and with huge numbers currently working from home - away from the formal structure of a physical workplace or face-to-face interviews - it can be easier to be taken in.

Fake job adverts are found online - particularly on websites like LinkedIn and even on well-known job websites - so it’s crucial to know what to watch for to avoid being hoodwinked. Let’s take a look at the most common warning signs.

Warning sign: It sounds too good to be true

We all want to find our dream job, but beware any job advertised that pays a hefty salary without calling for relevant experience, qualifications or skills to match.

While it’s true that some starter roles don’t call for previous experience, flagging up the low barrier to entry so prominently can indicate a scam.

Warning sign: You’re asked to pay an advance fee

If you’re asked to pay a registration fee, or offered the job before being asked to pay for uniform you need to carry out your role or to receive the training you need, you’re being tricked and there’s probably no job behind it.

Our clear message at HR GO is that you should never need to pay money in order to be accepted to work.

Warning sign: You’re asked to give away personal information

Sadly, online job seekers are a prime target for scammers who are looking to steal people's identities.

Sharing personal data like your date of birth, passport number or National Insurance number increases your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. Genuine employers may ask you for some of this information if you do end up working for them so make sure they’re genuine before handing your details over.

Warning sign: You’re asked to call a premium rate number

In our socially-distanced times, phone interviews can play a key part in the recruitment process.

But if you’re asked to call a premium rate number - then kept on hold for long enough to make you start worrying about the phone bill, or are kept talking for a lengthy interview - this can be a sign that all’s not right.

Warning sign: The employer seems unprofessional

Many of us use gmail or hotmail email addresses, but a serious recruiter or employer shouldn’t use a webmail email address in their advert. Legitimate recruiters are more likely to send messages from addresses with registered domains, like we do at HR GO (via

Another warning sign could be spelling mistakes or poor grammar in job adverts or documents (although bear in mind that fraudsters are becoming more slick and sophisticated in how they communicate).

Do your research 

Running a free check on Companies House will tell you if a potential employer actually exists. Online reviews written by other employees are another way to get peace of mind, and it’s also a good idea to check a company’s physical location on a website like Google Maps. 

If you have doubts, you could also contact that organisation directly to confirm that the job they’re advertising is real.

We’d also say that a good way to stay safe from job scams is by using a reputable recruitment agency, like HR GO. Like other trustworthy organisations, clearly we only work with genuine clients who have real jobs to offer.

Job hunting is definitely stressful at the moment, and if you find what seems like a great opportunity it might be tempting to cast aside normal doubts. But knowing the warning signs to look out for will make you far less likely to fall victim to a scam - freeing you up to land a job that’s right for you in the long term.

Stay safe

Find more information about avoiding job scams at the non-profit organisation SaferJobs. If you suspect that you have been the victim of a scam, you can report it to Action Fraud

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