Spotting fake job adverts: what jobseekers need to know

Spotting fake job adverts: what jobseekers need to know

Avoid falling for fake job adverts by learning all about what they are, why people post them and what signs to look out for.

You can’t trust everything you see online.

I know! Who knew?!

Unfortunately, this applies to job adverts, and candidates can easily be sucked into applying for a vacancy that doesn’t even exist.

A vacancy that doesn’t exist? Surely that can’t be a thing…

Well, fake job ads are 100% real and they’re not always easy to spot. You may even have applied for one before without the slightest doubts over its authenticity.

But what is a fake job ad? And is it actually possible to identify one?

What is a fake job ad?

A fake job ad is exactly as it sounds; it’s an advertised vacancy that simply doesn’t exist. These can be for exciting ‘opportunities’ abroad or work-from-home roles.

Yes, there really are people who post fictitious job ads.

Employers and fraudsters can both be guilty of placing a false advert. Some may have criminal intentions, while others may just be protecting themselves. Whatever the reasons though, it’s no consolation to a hopeful job seeker.

Why do people post fake job ads?

It might sound absurd that fake ads are floating around, but there’s no getting away from it. They’re out there.

Why though, do people advertise jobs they have no intention of filling?

1. To assess the market

If an employer is on the fence over whether to replace a current staff member, then they may dip their toe in the talent pool to see who else is available. While no means justified, it allows employers to see the standard of the candidate market, without the obligation to pick from it. They can also find out salary expectations or new qualifications.

2. To collect CVs  

Nothing lasts forever – including great staff. No matter how hard a business tries to keep employees happy, a change in circumstances, another job or even just retirement can lead to a recruitment drive. Placing fake job ads enables an employer to essentially hoover up CVs, in preparation for a time when they’ll actually need to hire.

3. The illusion of a fair process

Sometimes, an employer might want to give a job to someone who isn’t entirely suitable for the role (or at least isn’t the best person for the role); think nepotism or favours.

It turns out, that for all Gen Z’s tech savviness, only 17% of students and graduates have any awareness of online job fraud.

Even though they’ve already made their mind up, a company may publicly advertise the position to give the impression of a fair and open race. This is in the hope of placating both applicants and the current workforce, when the boss’ nephew sashays into his new office on Monday.

4. To add to a mailing list

If you have a service to sell and need access to a particular audience, why not advertise a related vacancy and wait for those email addresses to come rolling in? For example, if you’re trying to sell accounting software, you’ll want accountants and finance professionals. By advertising accounting vacancies, businesses can attract this audience and collect their email addresses. Naughty!

5. Crime

Advanced fee fraud is one of the most commonly reported types of job scam in the UK. This involves candidates being asked to pay for fake police checks, admin fees or training. Other crime scams might also include identity theft. Unaware job seekers may fork over significant sums of money, something we’ll go into more detail a little later on…

Are fake job ads a big problem?

In many cases, fake job ads are relatively harmless. If it’s just an employer pooling CVs or facilitating nepotism, then at best, it’s a little frustrating to the candidate (and that’s if they even find out!).  

The real problems arise when these fake vacancies are being used to collect personal data or even money; crime, basically.

SAFERjobs (Safe Advice for Employment and Recruitment) has claimed that the number of fraudulent job ads is on the rise.

The law enforcement nonprofit was set up to tackle recruitment crime, and for the period September 2014 to September 2016, there was a 300% rise in the number of job scams reported to them.

The most likely victims?

Young candidates.

It turns out, that for all Gen Z’s tech savviness, only 17% of students and graduates have any awareness of online job fraud. This makes them particularly susceptible to scams.

Job scams and crime

One way that job scams work, is by asking candidates to hand over money for fake checks, nonsense admin fees and non-existent training.

SAFERjobs reported that more than £500,000 of fraud had taken place between September 2015 and September 2016, with some candidates individually losing thousands of pounds.

Action Fraud reported that 18-24 year olds are the most targeted and on average lose £4,000.

Another way that crime can manifest itself is by essentially ‘hiring’ people for money laundering purposes.

These job ads typically ask for something like a ‘payment processing agent’ and around 15% of the UK have experienced an advert of this type.

The idea is that people are asked to accept a sum of money and then transfer it to another bank account (usually keeping a percentage for themselves). Unfortunately, this money tends to be attained by dodgy means and can see unwitting candidates receive a prison sentence.

Isn’t it illegal to post a fake job ad?

This is a tricky question.

In principle, fake job ads are illegal. They’re false, misleading and, if personal information is collected, can raise serious questions surrounding data protection.

“Fake job ads are 100% real and they’re not always easy to spot. You may even have applied for one before without the slightest doubts over its authenticity.”

The problem…

Unless the job ad involves an exchange of money, it’s difficult to prove that it was fake.

Think about it: how can you be sure that a recruiter or employer wasn’t genuinely hiring? It’s your word against theirs and any form of questioning can easily be batted away with ‘we are hiring’ or ‘we did have a vacancy but didn’t find anyone suitable for the role’.

Now, advanced fee fraud is a little easier to chase down, but even that has become more of a challenge due to electronic money. Scammers will typically ask for payment via anonymous e-money (aka digital cash) as this doesn’t leave a transaction trail and so can’t be traced.

Tips for spotting a fake job ad

So the big question is: how do you spot a fake job ad?

Well it’s not always easy, but here are a few things to look out for:

Although there are a few signs to look for, you can’t ignore your gut feeling. If something just doesn’t feel right, then click the back button.

Oh and definitely be wary of any ‘guaranteed, no experience needed jobs’. These should really set alarm bells ringing.  

But what if you don’t want to miss out on what could be a fantastic career opportunity? Try ringing the company. If it just rings out or doesn’t ring at all, then something’s definitely up.

To conclude

Fake job ads, be they with criminal intentions or not, are a big concern for job seekers.

Basically, if you think it looks too good to be true, you’re probably right – so scroll down the job boards with caution.

If you think you’ve stumbled across a fake, you can report it to SAFERjobs or Action Fraud. They may decide that the advert needs removing or that the fake company’s website needs taking down.

So good luck with your job hunt, but remember … all that glitters isn’t gold!