The rise of the fake job advert and how to spot one

Home The rise of the fake job advert and how to spot one
26 Apr 2021
For job-seekers

It is entirely possible that a job you have applied for doesn't really exist. 

Fake job adverts are on the rise, with Action Fraud reporting an increase of 300% in the past two years. As a job seeker, your anger is entirely justified; applying for jobs is a time-consuming and stressful activity, without throwing in the possibility that the role is completely made-up. 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. But it is useful as a candidate to be aware of the issue and how you can protect yourself and your personal data.

Why do people post fake job adverts?

  1. To assess the market: pretending to recruit for a role that doesn't exist can help an employer assess the calibre of the job-seeking market and their suitability for the role.
  2. To harvest CVs: fake job adverts enable an employer to keep a database of fresh CVs to turn to if they lose a staff member or decide to recruit to a new position.
  3. To tick the HR boxes: often an employer already knows who they want to offer the job to, but they advertise externally to create the illusion of a fair process.
  4. To grow a mailing list: some companies will advertise for a role in the area they target their business (for example, if they sell accounting software, then advertising for an accountant at their firm would enable them to gather a lot of relevant email addresses to target with their product).
  5. To copy your CV: some people will pose as a hiring company to gather CVs to plagiarise for themselves or to sell to other unscrupulous job seekers.
  6. To scam you: the worst motivation for fake job adverts is to scam you out of money. Advanced fee fraud is currently rife. This involves candidates being asked to pay for fake police checks, admin fees, uniform costs or training. Other crime scams might also include identity theft.

Is it illegal to post a fake job advert?

This is a tough one. In principle, fake job ads are illegal. They’re false, misleading and, if personal information is collected, can raise serious questions surrounding data protection. However, unless the process involves a fraudulent exchange of money, it's incredible difficult to prove that it wasn't a real vacancy. It would be very easy for a company or agency to say they'd simply filled the position or were no longer hiring for the role (if it had been posted for non-criminal purposes). Advanced fee fraud is easier to label as illegal activity, but as they often use anonymous methods to transact the money, it's very hard to trace and bring the perpetrators to justice.

What can you do about them?

In the case of those employers and agencies posting fake job adverts for non-criminal (but rather selfish) activity, there's not a lot you can do.

But the criminal adverts intending to part you with your money are typically easier to spot:

  • Poor spelling and grammar: fraudsters are less concerned with brand and reputation than a genuine employer.
  • Personal email addresses: if there is no official email, alarm bells should be ringing.
  • No company website or social media presence: most fraudsters won't go to the trouble and expense of setting up fake company websites; if you can't find out more online, then you need to do more research before you apply.
  • Asking for money: this is probably the biggest clue that you need to run for the hills – an upfront request for any kind of payment is extremely unusual for roles in the UK.
  • 'No experience necessary': on its own, this isn't a huge red flag, but if it's in conjunction with any of the above or with a promise of 'guaranteed employment', you might want to reconsider.

We'd strongly recommend you research any potential employer and use a reputable recruitment agency that's part of an industry association, like REC or TEAM (we're members of both). This means their processes have been checked and approved. You can be certain that all jobs we advertise and recruit for are genuine vacancies.

If you do think you've stumbled across a fake job advert on one of the job boards (like Reed or Indeed) or on a suspicious-looking company website, you can report it to Action Fraud for them to investigate.

How can we help you?

If you’re looking for your next professional opportunity in Surrey, please give us a call on 01932 355000 or email to find out how we can help.

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