Time for a change
The internet is by far the most popular choice for job hunters in the UK, with 67% of job seekers starting their job search online. Searching for the type of job you want is fast and easy, and you can see new jobs as soon as employers and agencies post them. However, the internet is also the channel of choice for job scammers and over 2,500 job scams were reported to Action Fraud in 2014.
Facebook, LinkedIn and Gumtree are popular sites for these fraudsters to operate, but fake jobs can be found frequently on legitimate job boards. The risks of job hunting online come in many guises, but all are designed to steal either your money or your identity. Here are some typical ones:
- Being charged a fee for up-front job checks, CV preparation or training.
- Being paid up front and then being asked to pay some of the money to a third party. People who do this are known as a money mule and (knowingly or not) they are involved in money laundering.
- Being asked to call for a telephone interview, on what is in fact a very expensive premium-rate number.
- Being tricked into providing personal information or bank details that are used by fraudsters to steal your money or your identity
As with other online activity, although there are risks you need to be aware, there are some simple precautions you can take to help you stay safe.
How do I protect myself?
When registering on a job site, first ensure that the site is reputable and has a physical address and landline phone number. Use a strong password that is different to that of your other online accounts and consider whether you keep your profile ‘public’, ‘confidential’ or ‘private’ (non-searchable). Most reputable sites will offer that flexibility and explain the difference, so you can choose the option most suitable for you.
Be wary of approaches for jobs on social media sites where you have a profile and think twice about clicking on links or attachments in an email claiming to be from a potential employer who has seen your CV on a job site. It may be worth calling to check that it relates to a legitimate job posting. A genuine employer would not mind.
Never divulge private information such as your National Insurance number, driver's licence number, bank account information, credit card information, passport number or date of birth until you have met your prospective employer in person and are happy to take the position. Never part with any money either – employers should pay you, not the other way round.
Carry out research on the employer and don’t do everything online. You should meet in person at some point. Check phone numbers are not premium rate numbers if you’ve been asked to call to discuss a job or do a phone interview. If in doubt, ask the employer or agent to call you, otherwise it could cost you a fortune.
Never allow your bank account to be used to move money for others. This is money laundering, helping to move money that criminals have stolen from other people. It is a serious crime and carries harsh penalties, even if you didn’t realise what you were involved in. As well as fines or potential imprisonment, you will be unlikely to get another bank account or other financial credit and it may impact future employability.