Scammers pose as real firms to target job seekers

  • Published
Jenny Jamieson

Scammers are impersonating genuine recruitment companies and advertising fake jobs to try to steal personal information, businesses are warning.

Fraudsters are posting vacancies online and sending WhatsApp messages to entice people into handing over their details.

2i Recruit in Surrey said it had received calls from 25 victims of scammers who had been asked to hand over their personal details.

The number of recruitment scams reported to Action Fraud is rising.

Recruitment scams typically involve criminals luring victims with the promise of extra work or income, before conning them out of sensitive personal information.

Scammers have been exploiting a number of reputable jobs websites to target their victims.

Jenny Jamieson, recruitment director and founder of 2i Recruit in Godalming, said scammers posed as being from her company in October.

She said: “We were taking calls from candidates saying a man had contacted them about a job we were advertising, but I was telling them that it wasn’t a job on my books.

“They were very, very upset and basically implying that people from my business were trying to get their personal information.”

Ms Jamieson said: “We discovered scammers were putting out a job advert in our company name, on employment website It was very well written, a good salary, so it was very enticing.

“I was just hopeful that they weren’t sending all their details through to them, but a lot of candidates did, and then they realised when they spoke to us.

“They sent their passport and their bank details.”

Fake job advert

Libby was contacted by a scammer after seeing the advertisement online.

She said: “They asked me for my passport in order to verify me for an interview. They were really convincing in the way they mimicked a real recruitment company and I didn’t suspect anything.

“I realised it was a scam when after a few days of not hearing anything there was a hard credit check on my report, so I phoned the real recruitment company and told them my concerns and they confirmed it was a fake job advert.”

A spokesperson for said: “We remove tens of millions of job listings each month that do not meet our quality guidelines. We encourage job seekers to report any suspicious job advertisements to us, or if they feel it necessary, to make a report to the police.”

WhatsApp message received by BBC journalist

BBC South East first became aware of this type of scam when a journalist from the team received a WhatsApp message claiming to be from Nolan Recruitment, offering job opportunities.

But when we contacted the engineering recruitment agency in Knutsford, Cheshire, they informed us that scammers had been using their company name for nearly 18 months and they had been inundated with calls from worried jobseekers.

Agency owner Sean Neary said the scams started in September 2022.

He said: “The scammers have even been using the names of people who work for my business.”

Sean Neary

Mr Neary said: “People have been leaving really negative reviews, which is damaging our reputation.

“I feel for the people it’s been happening to. There’s nothing we can do apart from raise awareness.

“The scammers use a network of different telephone numbers. It’s so hard to trace them.”

Jennifer Gaster, managing director of HR Heads in Southampton, said her firm had been targeted for about six months in 2022, with scammers using the name of a former employee to contact candidates.

“You have to verify someone to work in the UK and the typical way of doing that is through national insurance and passport information and that is what the scammers were doing,” she said.

Bella Betterton who is a victim of a recruitment scam

Image source, Bella Betterton

Bella Betterton fell victim to another recruitment scam and had £3,000 stolen leaving her feeling “attacked” and “distraught”.

The 18-year-old told Radio 4’s Money Box she had been contacted by scammers first via WhatsApp messages and then phone calls.

She thought she had taken part in a real job interview and the fraudsters tricked her into giving out her card details before stealing the money.

It is not just recruitment agencies that fraudsters are impersonating. In some cases they are posing as the employer.

Last year the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Gravesend, Kent, issued a warning about fraudsters impersonating them in social media posts which made false promises of visas and jobs.

‘Turned away’

Mike Andrews, national coordinator for the National Trading Standards eCrime team, said job scams used different techniques to exploit the victims.

“We’ve had incidences where they’ve believed they’ve had a job lined up,” he said.

“They’ve maybe paid an advance fee for a criminal records check or a spurious online course.

“They hand their notice in and leave their job, and they turn up at their new place of work, only to be turned away because no such business exists.

“Where we identify issues on social media platforms or fraudulent or misleading websites, we will take the appropriate action to try and get those websites taken down or the websites disrupted.”

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), which represents the recruitment industry, said its members would never ask job seekers for payment to find them work.

Lorraine Laryea, chief standards officer at REC, said: “This is illegal. We are aware of scammers taking advantage of some jobseekers’ keenness to find work by sending uninvited messages purporting to act as recruiters, over the past 12 months.

“Be wary of calls, WhatsApp messages, texts and the like that appear to have come out of the blue.”

A Home Office spokesperson said there had been an estimated 3.2 million fraud offences in the year ending September 2023 – down 13% from the previous year.

They said: “We have launched a national fraud squad, rolled-out enhanced support available to victims across England and Wales and begun the national Stop! Think Fraud public awareness campaign to help the public stay alert to the signs of fraud.”

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