woman's hands using laptop looking at fake job adverts and wondering how to stay safe job searching

Fake Job Adverts: How To Stay Safe Whilst Job Searching

Do you check if a job advert is real? Would you even know what to look for? A recruiter goes through the steps you can take to protect yourself!

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Fake job adverts are a lot more common than you think! There has been a 300% increase in recruitment related fraud within the last two years.

From taking your personal data, subscribing you to unwanted sales emails to stealing money, there is a lot of risks that come with handing over your personal data to the wrong people.

This really is a subject I find heart-braking, because I’m always telling people to treat their applications like a full-on project. When I’m job searching, I literally put hours into each and every application. To think that I’d put in all that effort for no reason is incredibly frustrating.

Here’s the down-low on fake job adverts, and how to stay safe whilst job searching!

Table of Contents

Why on earth would someone post a fake job ad?

There’s a few reason’s why people are posting fake job adverts. Not every one of these people have malicious intent, however it’s still very bad practice and unfair on the candidates.

Below are three of the most common reasons, however if you want to find out more check out AgencyCentral’s article ‘Spotting Fake Job Adverts; What Job Seekers Need To Know’.

woman shrugging in a forest why would you post a fake job advert
Photo by AZGAN MjESHTRI on Unsplash

1. Collect CVs

I have heard of recruitment agencies, or companies with extremely high staff turnover rates, post adverts just so they have a pool of CVs and a list of people ready to call.

Not only is this unfair on the candidates, it’s also a really rubbish way of recruiting. By the time there actually is a real vacancy, most candidates will no longer be interested!

Note: This is different to what I call a ‘rolling job ad’. These are often used by companies who need very large amounts of temporary workers, fast. For example, if someone organised a festival every year and had a job advert that ran for months leading up to the event, that would be fine. This is because they’re advertising for a job they know is going to be available. Problems arise when a company starts posting ads ‘just in case’, without the guarantee of a vacancy.

2. Collect your personal data / add you to a mailing list

Email marketing is one of the most popular ways of making sales nowadays. This makes data, such as email addresses, very valuable.

A company asking for your email address, phone number and address isn’t unusual on a job ad.

Requesting this data and then using it in a way which you haven’t consented to is illegal under Data Protection laws (this may vary depending on what country you are in, but either way, it is still immoral).

3. Commit fraud

Perhaps one of the most malicious reasons for posting a fake job advert is trying to make money. This could present itself in many ways:

  • Asking you to call premium phone lines
  • Requesting you pay admin fees
  • Asking you to pay upfront for background checks
  • Requesting you pay for training

Is posting a fake job advert illegal?

handcuffs a key and finger prints
Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

In principle, yes, because of laws around data protection and false advertising.

However, it’s really difficult for law enforcement to track down and prosecute people who are posting these ads. It’s perfectly legal for a company to post a job advert and then not appoint anyone who applied, they only have to say that there was no suitable candidate.

The best way to protect yourself against these scams is knowing how to spot a fake job advert.

How can I tell if a job advert is real?

No real employer will be asking for money upfront

It is perfectly legal for an employer to ask you to pay for things like background checks, however this normally comes much further down the line in the recruitment process.

Best practice in recruitment is to only require the successful candidate to pay for these things. So, if a company is asking you to pay up right away, this is a massive red flag.

Also, you should never have to call a company on a premium phone line for a job interview. Beware of calling 084, 087, 090, 091 or 098 numbers. Which has some great guidance on how to tell if a phone number is a premium line or not.

If a company isn’t able to conduct interviews face to face, they should really be using a free video call service, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

The company doesn’t have an online presence

A reliable way of spotting a scam advert is doing a bit of research on the company. This is something you should be doing anyway when you’re writing an application!

Do you recognise where their office is? Do they have a professional website? Can you find their employees on LinkedIn? Are they active on social media? If you struggle to answer yes to some of these questions, I would avoid giving them your personal details.

It's too good to be true / you have a gut feeling

What’s especially horrible about these scams is that they’re often targeting people who are desperate. Because of COVID, there are so many more people out there on the job market who really need to find a job.

If a job advert is offering unrealistic benefits or salary, there’s a possibility it really is too good to be true. It’s best to look further into the points above to decide if it is a real advert or not.

What to do if you think you’ve fallen for a scam job advert

If you think you’ve found a fake job advert, it’s worth reporting it! If you’ve sent money, there is a chance you can get it refunded if you act quickly.

If you don’t know for sure, it’s still best to report it anyway. There will be an investigation, and if it’s found to be a real advert then there will be no harm done!

If you’re in the UK, you can report it to Reporting fraud and cyber crime | Action Fraud. If you live elsewhere, your law enforcement will have services that you can report possible fraudulent activity to.

Some useful links:

Spotting fake job adverts: what jobseekers need to know (agencycentral.co.uk)

Jobseekers being targeted by scammers, minister warns – BBC News

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