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Recession Scams Prey on Job Seekers

A quick internet search for ‘recruitment fraud’ produces a surprisingly high number of results, recruiter Mike Hurst writes.

Mike Hurst. Mike Hurst is a director of security recruitment specialists HJA Fire and Security, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals and a member of ASIS International and The Security Institute. Pages on official company websites explain that their organisations have been the victims of recruitment fraudsters. In two or three minutes, I found pages explaining this fraud on the sites of many major corporations including Shell, BP, Emirates, Schlumberger, Balfour Beatty and Arsenal FC.

This is a variation on the ‘419’ advance fee fraud. Individuals are approached by people passing themselves off as the recruitment team of a large corporation or as a company acting on their behalf.

They will tell ‘candidates’ that they have a position open that they are suitable for, but that they need a sum of money in advance to cover some sort of administration cost. As with the normal 419 scams, these emails are often badly written, in poor English and from unlikely email addresses: however other are more sophisticated and less obvious.

At a time of recession, with relatively high unemployment, these scams can appear more attractive than they would normally. I would say that this scam or variations of it has been around for many years, but the internet just offers individuals and organised groups another forum for their activities.

No major company or reputable recruitment company will ever ask for money up front and there will always be a formal recruitment process to go through. Be warned.

Also prevalent is the ‘CV writing scam’. A fraudster puts up a professional looking three or four pages website purporting to be a recruitment company. He then lists a few high-level jobs on the site (eg European CEO - £120,000) and posts these on to some of the large job boards, paying by credit card. These attract a good response from applicants interested in the role. The fraudster then telephones all the applicants, saying that he feels they have a good chance of an interview with his client if only their CV was professionally written. ‘Can you recommend anyone?’ the eager applicant asks. Surprisingly enough the fraudster does know someone and for ‘only’ £350 this person will provide a high-quality CV. Apparently some of the CVs produced really are very good, but this is not the point. After a few days, the website will be taken down and a new one put up and the whole process starts again. This scam is earning fraudsters hundreds of thousands of pounds, so be aware of any such sites, particularly those that have no land line number or mailing address. For more information, please visit www.safer-jobs.com, set up by the Metropolitan Police with some of the major job boards.

For example, Balfour Beatty write on their website:

It has come to our attention that various individuals and organisations are contacting people offering false employment opportunities in Balfour Beatty. Such scams are fraudulent and intended to steal from the victims. We are taking this matter extremely seriously and we are working with the appropriate legal authorities to stamp out such fraudulent schemes. By making you aware of this, we hope to avoid and ultimately stop victims falling for this scam. The perpetrators will often ask recipients to complete bogus recruitment documentation, such as application forms, terms and conditions of employment or visa forms. Balfour Beatty name and logo is often featured without authority.

The Fraud Advisory Panel (FAP) is publishing factsheets aimed at businesses covering a range of fraud- related subjects: pre-employment screening, fraud hotspots in SMEs, identity fraud and investment scams.

Businesses should screen job applicants to guard against employing people who are dishonest or likely to commit fraud, says the Fraud Advisory Panel (FAP) watchdog. Ros Wright, chairman of the FAP and a former director of the Serious Fraud Office, says: “Pre-employment screening can provide an organisation with some assurance that a prospective employee is trustworthy and has the skills and experience required for the role they have applied for. It can also act as a deterrent to dishonest individuals applying for a position in the first place." It is estimated that one in six CVs contains some discrepancy, most commonly dates of work, academic and professional qualifications and undisclosed directorships. Screening does not have to be expensive and should be proportionate to the risks associated with the advertised role. As a minimum, businesses should check an applicant is who they say they are; lives at the address provided; has the right qualifications and immigration status and has given accurate facts about their employment history.

Originally published in, and reproduced with kind permission of Professional Security Magazine

Mike Hurst: A director of security recruitment specialists HJA Fire and Security, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals and a member of ASIS International and The Security Institute