How to avoid falling for employment scams

How to avoid falling for employment scams

author: Helen Fox

By Helen Fox

With the cost of living still high, many people are looking for higher-paying jobs. 

And fraudsters are ready to take advantage, approaching people with tempting job offers, whether or not they’re actively looking for work. But these opportunities could end up costing you rather than boosting your earnings. 

We’re digging into the different types of employment fraud you might come across and how you can protect yourself. 

There are four main types of employment fraud to look out for 

Employment fraud can compromise your personal details, cost you money, and even land you with a criminal record. There are four main types to look out for: 

  • Recruitment scams 
  • Fake job ads 
  • Work-from-home scams 
  • Money-mule schemes 

Recruitment scams 

In a recruitment scam, a fraudster poses as a recruitment agent. They typically contact you through job websites, social media, or even text messages. They might approach you about a real role (although they won’t get you hired for it), but more often than not, the job doesn’t exist. 

Recruitment scams are designed to get you to pay the recruiter for their services. They may ask you to pay them to recommend you as a candidate. If the job is abroad, as many are in recruitment scams, the fraudster will ask you to pay for visas, accommodation, and other relocation costs. But when it’s time to start work, they, and the money you’ve paid them, will be nowhere to be found. 

Fake job ads 

Some scammers create fake job advertisements, impersonating genuine companies to steal personal information and money from job hunters. But it can be hard to spot these scams until after you’ve applied for the job. 

If you apply for a fake job, you’ll usually be offered it straight away, without being interviewed. If you are interviewed, it’s likely to be a quick phone call with a fraudster posing as a genuine employee. Once you’ve accepted the job, the scammer will go after your money. 

They’ll ask you to buy equipment or tools you need from a specific website that belongs to them. They may ask you to pay for training. Whatever you spend, they’ll promise to reimburse you with your first paycheque. But when that paycheque is due, they’ll make excuses not to pay you, become hard to contact, and maybe even disappear. 

Work-from-home scams 

If you’re offered the chance to make a lot of money easily and from the comfort of your own home, you may be tempted. Who doesn’t want to boost their income with little effort, without even leaving home? But such an offer is probably a scam. 

Work-from-home scams typically involve an offer to set up your own business and run it from home. But you’ll need to spend money before you can make any. And you probably won’t make any. 

You’ll likely have to pay a set-up fee. You may also have to buy products to sell. These often turn out to be low-quality and impossible to make your money back on. And when it comes time to claim your earnings, like in a fake job ad scam, the fraudster avoids paying, becomes difficult to contact, and may simply vanish. 

Money-mule schemes 

A money mule is somebody who allows someone else to use their bank account to transfer money. They’ll usually be allowed to keep some of the money for themselves as payment. 

You might think there’s nothing wrong with earning a bit of extra money by letting someone else use your bank account. But it could leave you with a criminal record. This is because the people who want to use your account are usually moving money they’ve acquired illegally. Helping them, even unknowingly, is money laundering, a serious financial crime. 

Six expert tips to avoid employment fraud 

Our in-house fraud expert, Ben Fleming, has shared his top tips to avoid being sucked into a recruitment scam: 

  • Watch out for jobs that offer a lot of money for little work. Being offered a well-paid job with no prior experience and a quick recruitment process should set off alarm bells. Fraudsters will offer high earning potential in exchange for using your bank account for money-mule schemes. 
  • Never pay a recruiter. Genuine recruiters get paid by their clients (the employer) when they fill a vacancy. Any recruiter asking you for money in admin fees or other payments is probably a scammer. 
  • Don’t pay for any equipment, training, or set-up fees before you start the job. The need to spend your own money to have the kit or training you need to do a job is a huge red flag. Even if the company promises to reimburse you for your first paycheque, it’s not worth the risk. 
  • Double-check vacancies on a company’s website. To avoid getting duped by fake job ads, look up the job directly on the recruiter's or hiring company’s website. Once you’ve confirmed the vacancy is genuine, you can go ahead and apply. 
  • Be careful what personal details you share with recruiters. You’ll have to share some personal details to apply for a job. But you should be careful to avoid handing over information like bank details to a recruiter. Your new employer will usually ask for these on your first day. There’s no need for a recruiter to have them. 
  • Look up your interviewers on social media. These days, most people have social media accounts. Once you know who’ll be interviewing you, look them up on LinkedIn and other social media platforms to check that they are who they appear to be. 

If you think you’ve been targeted by any kind of employment scam, make sure you: 

  • End all contact with the suspected scammer immediately. 
  • Keep a record of the correspondence you’ve had; this could be used as evidence by the police. 
  • Contact your bank to let them know what’s happened; they may be able to help you get your money back. 
  • Report the scam to Action Fraud and, if you saw it on social media, the social media platform. 
  • Call the police on 101, or 999 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger. 

Disclaimer: We make every effort to ensure that content is correct at the time of publication. Please note that information published on this website does not constitute financial advice, and we aren’t responsible for the content of any external sites.

Author Profile Image: Helen Fox

Helen Fox

Personal Finance Editor

Helen is a personal finance editor who’s spent 11 years (and counting!) in the finance industry. She creates content on everything money with the goal of getting people thinking – and talking – about their finances in ways they may not have done before.

How to avoid falling for employment scams How to avoid falling for employment scams