The best protection against fake jobs is education and vigilance

While job scams have been around for years and carry recognisable warning signs, technological advancements have allowed scammers to target job seekers through increasingly sophisticated methods. A recent study by Online Scams and Fraud Research found that 30% of adults in the UK have experienced fake employment scams online. To avoid becoming another unfortunate statistic, here's our detailed guide to understanding job scams, complete with internet safety tips to protect your personal details.

What is a job scam?

A job scam is a type of fraud that targets the employment industry. Scammers often advertise fake jobs to obtain valuable personal information, typically to gain money or steal identities. 

Job scams often occur in one of two ways:

  • A fake job advert: Scammers exploit reputable job sites by posting poorly designed yet appealing ads, often promising higher pay for fewer hours or easy work. Fake vacancies are easy to fall for, especially if they look legitimate to an unsuspicious person scrolling on their device, but there are common job ad qualities that scream “fake.”
  • A fake WhatsApp message impersonating a recruitment firm: Scammers pretend to be recruitment agencies, sending victims WhatsApp messages to entice them into handing over details. Scammers posing as 2i Recruit in Surrey had victimised 25 people using this approach. Additionally, WhatsApp scammers had used fraudulent “interviews” to steal £3,000 from an unsuspecting job seeker.

9 warning signs of a job scam

The harsh reality is that job scams exist. The alarming 259% rise in job scam reports in 2023 calls for today's job seekers to be extra vigilant of fraudulent job opportunities. Here are a few things to look out for:

1. You've been cold contacted 

Scammers frequently send unsolicited phishing emails and WhatsApp messages posing as legitimate companies offering work-from-home jobs.

Be cautious when someone contacts you out of the blue, even if you've posted your CV online or have an active LinkedIn profile. Verify the recruiter's identity and the company they claim to represent by researching their contact details and online presence.

2. No online presence

Legitimate companies have an online footprint, including a professional website and active social media profiles. If you can't find these, the job listing might be a scam.

Look for forums where others may have flagged similar concerns about the company or job ad.

3. Unrealistic pay

If the salary seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of job ads that promise high earnings but are vague about the terms, such as commission-based pay without a fixed salary.

4. Too flexible schedule

While flexible working arrangements are common, be sceptical of jobs offering unusually lenient schedules combined with high pay, like working only two days a week.

5. Immediate job offer

It's not impossible to land a job offer after a handful of conversations, but it's incredibly rare. At the very least, you should expect a formal interview from legitimate companies.

Interviews are essential to the hiring process, and legitimate companies will have a formalised procedure. Be cautious of any vacancy that offers you the position without an interview, as it's likely to be a fake job.

6. Vague and poorly written ads

Genuine job adverts are detailed and well-written. Poor grammar, typos, and vague descriptions are signs of a potential scam.

7. Unprofessional emails and messages

Scam emails often contain poor grammar, random capitalisation, and suspicious contact information. Legitimate recruiters use professional email addresses and provide clear contact details.

8. Requests for money or confidential information

Scammers may ask for bank details, National Insurance numbers, or payments for application processing, like DBS checks. Legitimate companies only request such information after a job offer and do not charge fees.

Tip: you can check to see if you require a DBS for a specific role or have any further concerns.

9. Something doesn't feel right

Sometimes, you just have to trust your gut. While researching a company is your best defence, scammers are pretty clever today. If something doesn't add up, it's always best to play it safe.

7 common types of job scams

Fraudsters employ various tactics to deceive individuals into divulging personal information. Below are seven prevalent job scams to steer clear of:

1. Work-from-home and remote work equipment scams

These schemes offer easy work-from-home opportunities with high pay but often demand upfront fees or personal information. 

Additionally, these remote job scams involve offers for positions that necessitate purchasing specialised equipment or software from the scammer, usually at inflated prices or subpar quality, without genuine job prospects.

2. Fake employment or recruitment websites

These deceptive websites closely resemble legitimate job sites or recruitment platforms, tricking users into providing personal information or making payments for non-existent job opportunities. 

3. Emailed fake job offers

Fraudulent job offers sent via email often include hyperlinks to malicious websites or solicit sensitive personal data under false pretences. They aim to trick recipients into compromising their privacy or falling victim to identity theft schemes.

4. Fake jobs on social media

Scams advertised on social media platforms look to entice unsuspecting job seekers with false promises of employment or lucrative opportunities. It poses a significant risk to people looking for legitimate job opportunities, particularly the most vulnerable. 

5. Government job scams

Fraudulent schemes posing as government job opportunities target individuals seeking stable employment with reputable organisations. The prospective employer's prestige leads many unsuspecting victims to disclose personal details.

6. Job scams on verified job sites

Scammers infiltrate legitimate job sites by posting counterfeit ads, exploiting the trust job seekers place on these platforms. Even though there's often a rigorous screening process, fake jobs can fall through the cracks.

7. High-paying data entry job scams

These scams involve false promises of high-paying data entry positions, often requiring payment for access to job listings, software, or training materials. Despite appealing offers, no genuine employment or substantial income opportunities are typically provided.

What to do if you've been a victim of or suspect a job scam

If you suspect that you've been targeted or have fallen victim to a job scam, take these three steps:

  1. Stop all communications with fake employers and report the job scam.

  2. If you have parted with money, contact your bank immediately. Do not give any more money to the fraudsters. 

  3. Then notify the website operators where you uploaded your CV that scammers are using it.

You can report job scams via:


JobsAware is a brand of SAFERJobs, a not-for-profit organisation partnering with government organisations and the Metropolitan Police that informs people how to avoid and report job scams and unfair working practices. 

Action Fraud

Alternatively, report the job scam to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre. Their reporting tool will guide you through simple questions to identify what has happened, and their advisors are available 24 hours a day to help and advise if needed.

Citizen's Advice

In addition, you can report the job scam through Citizens Advice via their Scams Action Service

You can also learn more about job scams on Cifas, a not-for-profit fraud prevention membership organisation that manages a database of fraudulent crime.

How to protect yourself from job scams

Do not be discouraged from searching for jobs online. There are ways to protect yourself and your privacy from scammers. In addition to keeping an eye out for the red flags associated with job adverts and offers, practise these online safety tips, too:

1. Be selective with CV sharing

While applying to jobs broadly can increase responses, be selective to protect your privacy. Always check the privacy policy of recruitment agencies and job sites to understand how they handle your personal information.

2. Limit personal information

When registering on job sites, only provide basic details like your name, email, city, job sector, and desired job title. Never share sensitive information such as your date of birth, address, or bank details.

3. Track your job applications

Keep a log of all job applications, including the stages of each application, where you've registered your information, and the contacts you've interacted with. This will help you manage your job search and verify any potential cold callers.

4. Secure your social media

Employers often screen candidates via social media. Increase your privacy settings to limit visibility to your name and profile picture. This will also protect you from scammers who might target job seekers.

If you want to ensure that your CV contains the right level of personal information, submit it for a free review. This will give you the confidence to tackle the job market head-on and safely.

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