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Job scam or job offer? How to avoid fraudsters

Jennifer Birtles 30th May 2020 3 Comments

Reading Time: 6 minutes

A job scam is a fake online job advertisement targeting jobseekers with the aim of stealing their personal information or money. With more businesses advertising job postings online and over two thirds of the working population using the internet to search for jobs, more and more people are falling victim to these types of scams.

In particular, people aged between 18-25 are one of the most vulnerable groups, according to Action Fraud. Students and graduates keen to find work and applying for first jobs, or hoping to be able to work to pay their way through studying, become the easiest targets. With the current economic instability, it’s likely job scams will rise as more people turn to job searches for new or second jobs to boost their income.

Anyone can fall victim to any type of job scam. We’ve put together a guide which will help you recognise the most common types of job offer scams, how to avoid them, and what to do if you have fallen victim to one of them.

Spotting a Scam

How to spot a job scam

When you’re applying for jobs there are several signs you can look for that suggest a posting or job offer may not be genuine.

Being Asked to Provide Bank Details

A legitimate company will never ask you for your bank details upfront so if you spot this it’s an immediate red flag. Never provide any of your financial or bank details before you’ve had confirmation of work and all the relevant contractual paperwork.

Some scams ask you to pay a ‘referral fee’, ‘administration fee’ or similar. Don’t do this! You shouldn’t have to pay to find work.

Being Asked to Provide Personal Details Upfront

Be wary of any ’employer’ that asks for personal information such as your passport, National Insurance number, full address, or bank details before you’ve interviewed with them. While your employer will need more of your personal details further down the line, make sure to only provide these when you have confirmation of a genuine workplace and job.

A recruitment agency will ask for these details when you join their books. They’re legally obliged to check that you’ve got a right to work in the UK. However, only hand over your information if you’re certain that the agency is legitimate. If anything doesn’t feel right, walk away.

Being Pressured

Although almost all jobs have a deadline, you should not be feeling pressured or rushed into anything. If you do, this is a potential sign that someone is trying to con you – they could tell you that you need to transfer a certain amount of money immediately to them otherwise your job won’t be secure. That’s simply not true! Another con is to say you need to ‘confirm’ your bank details by sending them an amount they’ll then refund to you. Again, you should never have to hand over any money to get a job.

Generic Email Addresses

If you’re contacted by someone with a generic or personal email address this may be a warning sign. Most professional companies and their staff will have their own work emails and will contact you via that.

Sometimes, people use their personal email if, for example, they don’t have a website and only use a Facebook page for their business’ online presence. If you want to check whether the email is legitimate, find the phone number for the company and call them to check.

Is the Job too Good to be True?

If the job sounds too good to be true, it is. Look out for terminology and phrases used in job advertisements that make it sound like the dream job. Things like “earn £2000 a week working from home”, and “jobs guaranteed” are clear warning signs. Also, “no experience needed” can indicate a scam – unless the job is clearly entry-level or the advert outlines that training will be provided as part of the role.

Avoiding job Scams

How to avoid a job scam

While there are an abundance of job offer scams out there, there are plenty of steps to take to avoid them and keep yourself as safe as possible.

Do Your Research

Make sure to research the job and company you are applying for. Check out their website. If they don’t have one, or it doesn’t fit with the job posted, then this is a warning sign. Make use of Google – search the company’s name, and add scam into the search terms. This brings up any results of people having bad experiences with the company.

It is also worth checking out job scam lists like Better Business Bureau to see if the company is listed. Official records like Companies House help you confirm whether an organisation offering you the job actually exists.

You can also check out sites like Glassdoor to read reviews from staff who currently or previously worked at the business. This gives you a good idea of the work culture as well as finding out if it’s a legitimate company.

Don’t Hand Over Any Money

Legitimate employers don’t charge to hire you. A fraudster may ask you to send money to pay for training costs, certification and checks, or administrative costs. Any requests you receive from a supposed business to send them money mean it’s likely you’re being led into a scam.

There’s No Getting Rich Quick

Unfortunately, aside from winning the lottery there’s no real way to get rich quick. Be wary of listings that claim to offer you a high income for part-time hours or a guaranteed job and financial success. Sadly, these just aren’t true.

Check Your CV

Check over your CV and make sure you haven’t included your date of birth, full address, or National Insurance number. You don’t need personal details on your CV aside from your name and a means for an employer to contact you. It’s a good idea to set up a separate ‘job hunting’ email address to put on your CV and job applications. This limits the personal information you need to give out, and makes spam more manageable!

Keeping Yourself Safe

Use different passwords to keep your data safe

Be careful and cautious in what information you make available to the world online.

Be cautious

Never give out personal details – a fraudster doesn’t need much personal information to steal from you so be careful. If you feel like someone is trying to push you into giving your details then leave the situation by hanging up or ending communication.

Call back

If you doubt whether you’re speaking to a legitimate company you can always ask for a number to call them back on. If you do, be sure to call back on a different phone line to guarantee someone isn’t still connected. You can also google the number to see if anything matches. Often, if people have had bad experiences with it they’ve posted about it in forums.

Shred old papers

Be careful with personal documents. Make a habit of shredding or burning any old paperwork that holds sensitive or personal information.

Use different passwords

Use different passwords and pins for accounts and never give them out.

Steps to Take if You’ve Fallen Victim to a job scam

Anyone can get caught by a job scam, no matter how savvy they are. Suspect you’ve been trapped in a job scam? Follow these steps.

  1. Stop all communication with the scammers immediately. Take note of their details and report them to Action Fraud.
  2. If you’ve transferred money to a scammer within the past 24 hours, call the police on 101. Call 999 if you feel immediately unsafe or threatened, such as while you’re with the scammer in person.
  3. If you’ve given them any money or financial details, contact your bank immediately. Keep an eye on your credit score to watch out for any applications for credit, if you notice changes that aren’t you, you can file an Identity Theft Report with the FTC.
  4. Report the scam to job listing sites and any other places you may have listed your CV. Alerting websites to scams will help them block any false employers and protect others in the future.

Additional Information

If you’re looking for where you can get advice or find safe employment opportunities these are good starting points:


SAFERjobs is a non-profit organisation working with the police to raise awareness and combat job scams. They also provide detailed information about recognising job scams and your rights.

Student services

University students should access their college’s student advice service. As well as job scams, they’ll offer you advice about applying for jobs.

The Job Centre

Your local job centre offers guidance for avoiding job scams. It also provides job application assistance and has a list of legitimate job opportunities.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice has lots of useful information on various types of scams. It also signposts you to ho and where you can get further help and support.

More useful reading

Job scams aren’t the only way people can steal your information for nefarious uses. Read these articles to protect yourself from other scam types, too.

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3 years ago

Very useful article!

4 years ago

Very good clear information.

4 years ago

Important article. Appreciate the information.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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