Fake employment ads rob jobseekers of money and personal details

A rise in recruitment scams in which job seekers are defrauded of their personal details or money is another effect of the pandemic with millions of people being suddenly with little or no work, say QUT fraud researchers.

  • Various techniques to defraud jobseekers include requiring them to upload personal details that are on-sold
  • Jobs which offer great pay for little work or need for qualifications likely to be fake
  • The rise in legitimate work-from-home ads has made some fake ads harder to detect

Associate Professor Deanna Grant-Smith from QUT Centre for Decent Work and Industry said the lockdowns and physical distancing restrictions “created a bountiful environment for offenders to effectively target potential victims”.

The researchers used the term recruitment fraud to refer to jobseekers as victims of the fraud in a study published in the journal, Social Alternatives, that advocates for a research agenda aimed at a better understanding of this type of fraud.

Professor Grant-Smith (pictured below left) said a common recruitment fraud technique was to promote a fake job opportunity to a potential job seeker to gain a direct monetary reward or to access sensitive, personal details to gain an indirect benefit.

“Offenders seek to harvest personal information by posting a fake ad which requires jobseekers to upload personal information that offenders compile into databases and on-sell to legitimate and illegitimate groups,” Professor Deanna Grant-Smith said.

“Identity theft is another approach that uses the same ruse to obtain personal information from applicants by seeking passports, bank account information, and driver’s licences so they can take on the victim’s identity or use their bank account to launder money.

“People using professional sites like LinkedIn can be targetted to receive fake job offers via the platform which lure them into sharing banking and other personal information.

“A third type of recruitment fraud is where offenders require upfront payments to cover services/fees related to potential employment or pay for starter kits, visas, training, or travel, for fake jobs.

“In all cases victims lose personal details or money without any benefit.”

QUT Associate Professor Cross (pictured right) from the Centre for Justice said victims might not realise what had happened and just believe they were not the preferred candidate.

“It can be difficult to spot a fake job advertisement as often they have few observable differences, but a rule of thumb is if the job ad offers a large pay packet for work with limited or no qualifications or experience, it is likely to be fake,” Associate Professor Cross said.

“Prior to the pandemic these overpaid work-from-home positions were twice as likely to be fake than ‘real’ postings and easily discernible, but this criterion has become problematic in pandemic times as work from home has become acceptable and a ‘perk’ of genuine job advertisements.

“Emerging research now attempts to identify fake job ads by drawing parallels to other types of cybercrime, including phishing, spam, cyberbullying, opinion fraud, Wikipedia vandalism, fake news detection and trolling.”

Professor Cross said research on recruitment fraud was needed to quantify both its prevalence and its victims.

“We particularly need further research that compares contemporary fraudulent job ads with legitimate job opportunities in the Covid era,” she said.

“So that we can target awareness campaigns for potential victims, we need to further research the characteristics of those most susceptible to recruitment fraud.

“Lastly we need to investigate the monitoring and detection role of job placement sites to minimise posting of fraudulent advertisements.”

Recruitment Fraud: Increased opportunities for exploitation in times of uncertainty? was published in Social Alternatives. A briefing paper on the topic is here.

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