Expert advice from Dave Wood of www.northwestwebjobs.co.uk .
People from all walks of life are being affected by these tough economic times. Young people, who have recently left education, are finding it harder than ever to establish themselves on the first rung of the employment ladder. Experienced people, working in well-established industries, are being made redundant as the economic climate changes, rapidly, around them.
Free, easy and effective; online recruitment is now the most common way for the unemployed and the underemployed to discover new working opportunities. This is particularly the case for recent University graduates and those professionals who have become accustomed to working in a highly-specialised role.
Unfortunately, the desperate scramble to find work has opened up a huge potential market for scammers. Operators of rip-off recruitment websites see big advantages in catching naive jobseekers in their nets. The repercussions of being entrapped can range from identity theft, to financial losses, to blackmail and other forms of exploitation.
Contrary to what many belief, employment scams aren’t a, strictly, modern phenomena. In fact they’ve been around almost as long as employment itself has.
For decades, unsavoury recruiters, often with a scarily large market presence, have asked for illegal (or barely legal) payments for registration and subsequent premium services. This writer has been witness to modern scam sites charging upwards of £100 for a simple CV rewrite. Such practices date back to the pre-internet era. They have long created headaches for lawmakers and law enforcers.
One notable example of pre-historic recruitment fraud would be model agencies that are little more than a front. Picking up young, impressionable, girls on the street and offering them “free” portfolio opportunities, which then lead to extortion, sexual blackmail and even enforced prostitution; these “agencies” are still a force to be reckoned with today. Needless to say, they can be a very dangerous proposition for anyone that becomes entangled with them.
Another notorious scam, that is currently experiencing a renaissance via email spamming, is the fraudulent “get rich quick” model. Originally manifesting itself in the shape of letters from a deceased relative’s legal representative or from an overseas aristocrat, this scam has now morphed into lucrative, underground e-industry.
In truth, as the internet develops, it offers scammers more efficient and more effective ways to operate. A simple Google search for a term such as “Manchester web design vacancy” will lead you to a mixture of legitimate and fraudulent sites. Often these sites can be closely patterned after the sites of credible recruiters. This writer has received emails from a dodgy doppelganger of, popular recruiter, Reed, in the past.
Aside from causing anger and frustration to jobseekers, these underworld sites openly flaunt data protection laws. They have identified ways to profit from the personal data of those that they ensnare, selling it on to other organised criminal groups for use in practices such as fake passport production and banking fraud.
The trouble with these false “services, is that it can be very difficult to get rid of them. Many of them are based in geographic locations with poor law enforcement. This can often mean that they are able to fly under the radar of the UK justice system.
Recently, in a controlled test, the Metropolitan Police and the Information Assurance Advisory Council (a partnership of major business that advises on information protection) placed an advert, for a job with the fictional company “Denis Atlas”, in a national newspaper. The advert invited jobseekers to apply by emailing the CV to the facade company (who’s name is an anagram of “Steal an ID).
107 people applied for the job, over the course of a seven-day period. Many of the applicants submitted data that could have been used in identity theft. All were eventually informed that they had been part of an experiment.
The study proved that sending out a CV without checking its destination is always an error. It’s a little-known fact that criminals need just three of fifteen key pieces of personal information in order to commit identity theft. The average jobseeker’s CV contains, at least, eight.
The vast majority of CVs submitted to recruitment sites also contain unnecessary sensitive data. Information such as your Date of Birth and National Insurance Number is of no consequence to an employer at the recruitment stage. Recruiters have also been known to receive photocopied passports and other personal documents, in the post and via email.
TOP TIPS FOR AVOIDING SCAMS
- Beware of sites that redirect you (i.e. from a .co.uk site to a .com).
- Be suspicious if job details are extensive but employer details are woolly.
- Question whether or not the salary looks too good to be true.
- Avoid adverts that detail impressive, aspirational duties, then state “no experience needed”.
- The term “self-employed” is often a red flag for pyramid schemes.
- Read the small print. Look out for poor grammar or robotic-looking adverts.
- If you have any doubts about a website’s identity run a www.whois.com search to check.
- Don’t include your date of birth, in applications.
- Your relationship status is nobody’s business but your own.
- You place of birth is also irrelevant.
- Only give your first and last name, unless you have a very common name.
- Be wary of wacky email addresses featuring multiple numbers.
- Particularly beware of business email addresses that don’t feature the company name after the @ and simply feature “@live.com” etc.
- There is no such thing as getting rich quick.
Wishing you a safe jobseeking experience,
The North West Web Jobs Team.