Online scammers use fake job advertisements posted on recruitment sites and copycat employer websites to try and trick job hunters into sharing personal information such as their address, passport details, and employment history.
Once a scammer has obtained someone’s personal information they can use it to conduct a range of criminal activities, including online fraud. This can have serious repercussions for the affected person, including financial loss or a negative impact on their credit rating, which can prevent them from buying a house or applying for a credit card.
At first glance, it might be hard to detect if a job ad is genuine or not, but once you know what to look for you can avoid the pitfalls. Here’s how you can keep safe when looking for a job online:
Pay attention to the URL
Scammers create websites with addresses that are almost exactly like those of the large brands or companies they’re pretending to be. An example would be using big-business.com when the genuine businesses name is bigbusiness.com. The scammers expect people will skim over the address and domain name and not notice the difference. Most browsers allow you to quickly verify links by hovering over them before you click. Shortened URLs (like bit.ly) or links redirecting you somewhere else are indications that the website may be fake. When in doubt, verify an organisation’s webpage and navigate your way to the job ad from there. Or, get in touch with the organisation to find out how you can apply.
Check the company’s online presence
Most recruitment agencies and organisations post their vacancies to several job boards to reach as many people as possible. If you can only find the job on a single board, then it may be suspect. Contact the organisation directly to find out if the job is real. If the company has no online presence, that’s a warning sign.
Cross-reference the contact details
Check that the recruiter’s email matches the company’s domain name – that is, that the email ends in the official company name. As with URLs, some scam emails may look like they have come from a real company, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, when the real company email is email@example.com. Always check. You can paste the email into the search bar and type in ‘scam’ to see if anyone else has reported it. Emails from a personal account, rather than an organisation’s email address, are also red flags.
Be wary of interviews via messaging services
It’s becoming more common for job interviews to take place over the phone or via video calls. However, you should be wary if your first interview is on an instant messenger service. Find out more about the company and the person you are speaking to. If you do agree to the interview, don’t share personal information such as your bank details.
Reach out to employers
Some fake websites act as a funnel, posting real positions from genuine recruitment sites as a way to get people’s personal information. If you see a job on a recruitment website you’re not familiar with reach out to the employer to check and ask for the legitimate channels for applying.
You didn’t contact them, they contacted you
Take a cautious approach if an employer contacts you from out of the blue, especially if they offer you a job straight away or request to interview you. Also, keep an eye out for lots of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes as these can be an indication of a fake job.
And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
If you’re affected by an online recruitment scam
Here’s what to do if you’ve been targeted by an online recruitment scam.
If you gave out some personal or financial details:
- contact the service provider for your online accounts — like your bank or your email provider. Let them know what’s happened and ask what they can do to help
- change the passwords for any online accounts you think might be at risk
- get a free credit check done. This will let you see if any accounts have been opened in your name. There are three main credit check companies in NZ, and you’ll have to contact all of them. You can ask to have your credit record corrected if there’s any suspicious activity on it.