For the hundreds of thousands of people laid off since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the economy has started to move in the right direction. Job vacancies are steadily rising as increasingly confident companies go on a recruiting spree.
An unwelcome side-effect is that fraudsters have spotted an opportunity to make money from those desperate to get back into work. People looking for jobs are being scammed after answering fake adverts online and being asked to pay for background checks.
Applicants said that fake adverts online, including some on the job search site Indeed, took them to convincing-looking websites. Some even had video interviews with fraudsters before being told they had been given a job while others were sent bogus contracts or emails from fake HR departments inviting them to induction sessions.
They were then sent a link taking them to a fraudulent website — ukdbs.org — which said it carried out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, which will give details of any criminal convictions or bans from certain kinds of work, for £30. Many paid the fee and others had up to £300 stolen from their bank accounts before they realised that their fake employers had disappeared, according to victims’ reports on the business reviews site Trustpilot.
Once people left their bank details with the fake DBS website, their accounts were debited repeatedly, sometimes taking hundreds of pounds before victims spotted it and alerted their banks.
TSB said customers had reported losing up to £300 on fake DBS checks, but up to £4,000 in subsequent fraudulent calls from scammers pretending to be their banks. It refunds all customers as part of its fraud refund guarantee.
The Times reported the website to Action Fraud, the national crime reporting service, and it has since been suspended.
Suzanne Smith, executive director of barring and safeguarding at the DBS, said: “We know that some companies have taken money for DBS checks from job seekers who are relieved that they have been promised a job, but the DBS check never arrives and the job was never real. The exploitation of job seekers has risen in the pandemic and the methods being used are more and more sophisticated. ”
Keith Rosser, the chairman of JobsAware, a non-profit organisation that advises on how to avoid job scams and unfair working practices, said his staff were hearing up to ten reports a day, five days a week from victims of scams such as these — an 80 per cent rise since pre-pandemic times.
“Whereas in the past, they might have gone to an office to meet an employer, now job interviews are generally being held online on Teams or Zoom. It’s easy to fake a video job interview,” he said.
Amanda Paremain, 55, from Birmingham, lost her job and started looking for a new one in January, using the site Indeed. She saw a customer service role advertised at Oasis Holidays and was directed to oasisne.com, which had a notice saying the website was under construction (the real Oasis Holiday site is oasisholidays.co.uk). She sent a detailed application form.
She was offered a job and then sent a contract by the company which she said was so convincing that even her aunt, who is a lawyer, did not flag any problems. In a separate email, she was asked to click on a link to ukdbs.org and pay for a speedy DBS check as well as hand over her national insurance number.
“I clicked on the link and it quickly became clear that I was going to be charged a fee, and that is when the alarm bells started ringing. Why would they offer me a job when they hadn’t even done a Zoom interview or spoken over the phone with me?”
She visited Trustpilot, the business reviews site, and realised that scammers were posing as Oasis and that the DBS site she had been directed to was a scam. “I was in shock. I never thought you could get a job scam, especially on reputable job sites,” she said.
Paremain reported the fake advert to Indeed and it was taken down.
Sami Ayubi, 44, from Exeter, a part-time carer, thought he had found a job through a Facebook advert for Footistic, which claimed to be a social network for sportspeople based in Cardiff. He checked the Facebook page profile for the fake company and then did a Zoom interview on a Sunday evening. He was told that he could start the following week, but needed to pay for an expedited DBS check first. He became suspicious and reported the scam to Facebook.
“The advert I clicked on wasn’t a crazy get-rich-quick scheme or anything like that — it was simply ‘Would you like to work from home doing customer service work for £10 an hour?’,” he said.
Victims on Trustpilot reported having money stolen after being referred to the ukdbs.org site by fake employers including Rhino Logistics, Faegrian Interiors, Turnkey Marketing and Butterworth Books, which they found on Indeed.
Indeed said it took rule violations very seriously. “We have a team that uses automatic and manual means of identifying and removing fraudulent accounts as quickly as possible,” said a spokesman. “We encourage people to report any suspicious job advertisements to us. It shouldn’t cost jobseekers money to apply for a job; background checks are usually paid for by employers. Charging fees is a violation of Indeed’s rules for companies on our site.”