The best protection against job search scams is education.
The harsh reality is that job scams exist. What's worse, according to a CV-Library and Safer Jobs study, 72 per cent of job seekers say they don't know how to tell if a job posted online is a scam or legitimate.
Don't be fooled – just because a vacancy is posted online, it doesn't mean it's genuine. Job offer email scams and fraudulent job adverts exist, and the lack of education surrounding this topic could be a reason so many job hunters fall victim to these fake listings.
Whilst many job sites use automated and manual tools to ensure every job posting is legitimate, fraudsters have an abundance of ways to lure their victims. With that in mind, here are the warning signs of a job scam to bear in mind whilst job hunting that will help you stay safe when applying for jobs online.
1. You didn't apply for the role
If you have listed your CV on an online job site, there is a high chance that recruiters and HR managers will call you over the coming weeks to say that you're a great fit for an available role. But tread carefully.
It's best for job seekers to hear what the person has to say and take their name, the company or recruitment firm's name, their website address, and their email and phone number. Then conduct your own research to verify the caller and the company. The majority of recruiters are incredibly active on LinkedIn, so cross-reference any names on the platform to see if the firm is legitimate.
2. You can't find them online
Every professional company has an online presence. Always conduct a thorough online search before you apply for a job to check that it's a legitimate listing. If the job listing is a scam, you are unlikely to find a company website (or one with a Meet the Team page with real people) or active social media profiles.
During your research, you may even be lucky enough to find online forums from those who have been scammed or share the same concerns as you, warning others about the potentially fraudulent company and a fake job ad.
3. The pay is unrealistic
If the salary is too good to be true, chances are it is. If you're actively searching for a role, you should have a decent idea of the average salary for your job and level of experience, so you should be able to identify when a number is unrealistic.
More often than not, these job scams are pitched as 'You could make £72,000 a year'. However, these fake job ads fail to mention that you may have to work on commission or that you would have no fixed salary. Therefore, 'could' is an important modifier here.
In short, if the job posting is enticing you with the salary alone, be wary. Whilst a professional job posting may mention a salary, they are unlikely to make that the prime focus of the advert.
4. They make you a job offer immediately
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.
Interviews are an essential part of the hiring process, and legitimate companies will have a formalised procedure. Be cautious of any vacancy that offers you the position with no interview as it's likely to be a fake job.
5. The job description is vague and poorly written
Legitimate job descriptions are carefully written, proofread and signed off on before they are posted online, so if a job board ad lacks detail and is littered with typos, you could be reading a job scam.
Poor grammar, glitchy structure and clunky language choices are also job scam warning signs as they indicate that an advert may have been translated and spun online into something (almost) recognisable.
That said, job descriptions are written by humans, so forgive the occasional spelling error. It's if the mistakes are repeated that you should watch out for a job scam.
6. The emails are unprofessional
Many emails from job scammers are poorly written too. Rogue punctuation and capitalisation and spelling errors are classic signs of something strange at bay.
Also consider the contact information. Is there a professional email signature including the company's website, phone number and social media links? Do the company name and address feel legitimate? Is that phone number a premium number?
Watch out for two types of email addresses too. The first type is a personal email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. The second is an email address that looks like it's been randomly generated, such as email@example.com.
Recruiters and HR managers will always contact you through legitimate company email addresses in a professional manner, so be wary of anything that suggests otherwise.
7. They ask you for money or confidential information
Job scammers often ask for personal bank account information, national insurance numbers and other personal information as the fake advert can be part of a wider operation targeting identity fraud or money laundering.
Legitimate companies will never ask you to pay for something, nor will they ask for your personal bank account details or for you to deposit checks as part of the application process. Genuine businesses will never ask about protected characteristics either, such as your date of birth.
Some jobs, like those that involve working with children, require a security check. This background check used to be called a CRB check, but in 2012, it was renamed as a DBS check. If a job ad mentions a CRB check or an alternatively named background check, chances are it's a job scam. Be especially cautious if the advert asks for extortionate rates for this review.
Double-check gov.uk to see if you require a DBS for a certain role or have any further concerns.
8. Something doesn't feel right
Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. Whilst researching a company is your best defence, in today's age, scammers are pretty clever. If something doesn't add up, it's always best to play it safe.
If you think you have a fake job on your hands, you can report the incident to JobsAware (a brand of SaferJobs), a law enforcement organisation supported by the Metropolitan Police and other government organisations. You can also report an online scam through Citizens Advice via their Scams Action Service.
The threat of job scams is scary, but if you arm yourself with this knowledge and keep the red flags in mind as you conduct your job search, spotting a job scam will become easier. There are plenty of legitimate jobs out there, but if at any point you're unsure, it may be best to steer clear.
In a challenging job search, you need some experts in your corner. Get a free CV review for confidential feedback on your CV.