Job search scams: key tips to avoid being a victim of recruitment fraud

We’ve seen numerous articles on the topic of Job Search Fraud or Recruitment Fraud in 2023.

The good news!

MOST job advertisements (whether via job boards or on employers’ or recruiters’ websites) are genuine. ALMOST ALL LinkedIn approaches are genuine, if often irritatingly wide of the mark. MOST LinkedIn people are “real”.

However while it probably won’t happen to you, one in five people targeted by fake jobs lose money. According to the charity JobsAware the average sum lost is £2,300 and in 2022 it reported a 35% increase in job scam reports over 2021.

The nature of job applications or even simply having a LinkedIn profile is that you are parting with personal information. This could be used by fraudsters and/or render you more susceptible to falling for a ruse, scam or identity theft.

Also the nature of remote working and online recruitment processes and the increased pressures on people (redundancy, cost of living) make it easier for job search fraudsters to pounce and cybersecurity threats (phishing, viruses etc) to become real.

Employment fraud is the fifth most common fraud in the UK and many scams can be very convincing. Fraudsters are posing as employers and recruiters on major sites including Indeed and LinkedIn.

Prism’s top tips:

Don’t be a hermit

Fear of job search fraud is not a reason to avoid applying for jobs! Also unless you have no need of a network or never want to move job it’s important to have a LinkedIn profile. Whatever might be your views on the platform it’s considered odd and potentially suspicious if you aren’t visible on LinkedIn with an up to date profile.

Don’t assume recruitment fraud won’t happen to you or only happens to dimwits

Fraudsters are doing nothing else all day than trying to extract money. They are very good at it. They have much more experience than you. Also they are increasingly targeting executive level and “professional” types as the returns can be greater.

Be careful what information you provide

On a CV or on LinkedIn: avoid date of birth, passport/NI/driving licence numbers, full address/postcode, reference to marital status/children, physical or heath detail. They can be used for identity fraud or by someone to convince you they are genuine.

Sensible security

A decent password and 2FA for LinkedIn and other accounts. Also up to date and reputable anti-virus software will help protect against many (but not all) phishing threats or inadvertent visits to fraudulent sites which might download malware.

Healthy scepticism

A degree of caution is prudent.

These are the things to look out for:

  • Is the job advertisement reasonably well written and error free? Are other communications? Fraudsters often include errors to weed out the less gullible.

Do your research: verify employers and recruiters

  • If it’s not a “brand name” employer is there credible evidence the employer (or recruiter) exists e.g. a LinkedIn profile, real employees, a proper website? Note a “well known” employer is no guarantee either: Amazon and eBay have both warned potential applicants of job scams undertaken in their names.
  • Is there a name of a person (on the job advertisement or approach) and do they have a authentic LinkedIn profile with a credible number of contacts (and ideally some contacts in common)? Note LinkedIn and other profiles can be fake albeit fakes rarely have many followers, contacts, or skills endorsements. Also profiles can be hacked if they have poor security. So even an apparently authentic approach or email from LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor or an employer needs caution if it features warning signs.

Be cautious

  • Never respond to approaches from Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo email addresses or where the email address suffix is not the same as the bona fide website.
  • Never automatically accept LinkedIn connection requests even if they seem to be from an “interesting” recruiter or employer. Check them out.
  • Have you been asked to telephone? Check for premium rate phone numbers.
  • Have you been ‘phoned? A reputable employer or recruiter is unlikely to call without warning. If you get such a call, even if the person claims to be from an employer you’ve applied to, politely indicate that it’s inconvenient to speak and ask them to email or message you to propose some options for a specific time. Check the authenticity of the message and individual.

Other ‘red flags’ for recruitment fraud

  • If it seems too good to be true it probably is. An offer after online chats or email exchanges? An offer after a phone call? An early request to send through verification checks especially copies of passport or driving licence? Urgency or pressure to make a decision? They need bank details? All potential warning signs and red flags.
  • The “smell” test. Something fishy? Not quite right? Give it a miss.
  • Invited to click on a link or open an attachment? Only when you are confident of the identity of the sender and the legitimacy of the link. Hover over the link with your cursor: is it the same? Perhaps consider going direct to the website in another browser.
  • NEVER PART WITH ANY MONEY at any stage whether pre-offer or post “employment”. Sometimes people are asked to purchase laptops, courses, travel, accommodation etc. Or they pay you up front “a sign on bonus” and ask you to repay part of it. Or they send you a cheque…which then bounces. No legitimate employer will do this and in the UK it’s illegal for recruiters to charge “registration” or similar fees.

Act on your instinct

If you have any suspicion that you (may) have been a victim of a jon search scam it is vital you take action:

  • Stop all communication with the suspected fraudster
  • Report it to ActionFraud, JobsAware and the (legitimate) employer or job board
  • If you’ve parted with money or financial information advise your bank and credit card company
  • Remove any software you may have downloaded as part of the recruitment process
  • Consider changing passwords

Like other aspects of the digital and online world whether it’s about your finances, purchases or your social life: there are always people keen to illegally help you part with your money. Job search is no different.


Don’t assume it won’t happen to you. Be cautious and sensible. Be careful what information is on your CV. Use strong passwords on LinkedIn and job boards. Do your research: verify employers and recruiters before responding to messages or sending a CV. If it seems too good to be true it probably is. Never part with money.
It can take many forms but often involves someone using your information to undertake identity theft, persuading you to part with money, downloading malware, calling a premium rate number, providing financial and bank information or accessing your laptop.
Most advertisements and approaches with employers, job boards and LinkedIn are genuine. Most people on LinkedIn are “real”. But this is a growing area and if you are making dozens or hundreds of applications it’s quite likely that some of the advertisements or people may be fraudulent.

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