How to scam-proof your job search

For the most part now, job searching and hiring happens online, and it makes the process quick and easy. But with that online activity comes the increased risk of online scams.

Research for SEEK shows that 13% of Kiwis have personally experienced, or know someone who has experienced, some form of online job scam.

Most scammers are hoping to convince you to give them money, or to gain access to your personal information. With the incidences of scamming on the rise, almost half of us (48%) are understandably concerned about how we can keep ourselves safe. The good news is that scams often come with tell-tale red flags, which can help us stay safe while job hunting.

How job scams can happen

SEEK’s Security Influencer Kelsy Luengen says most threats aren’t targeted, but instead play a numbers game with many people.

“In an untargeted scam, they will get a database – for example, from the WhatsApp breach which had 5 or 6 million phone numbers and email addresses – and they'll just pretty much contact everyone on that database,” says Luengen.

“They'll send the same thing: ‘Hey, we have this really interesting job offer for you,’ but then down the track they’ll ask you to send money to process the application,” she says.

If you find yourself in this situation, Luengen says the best thing to do is to ignore the scammer and block their number, and to share what you know to help protect others.

“Share information far and wide,” says Luengen. “Say, ‘Hey guys, I received this job scam. This is what it looked like. This was a text message or email.’ Share it far and wide just so that other people know, because we know that a lot of people are in situations where they're caught off guard.”

5 job scam red flags to watch out for

Warning signs to be aware of when it comes to employment scams include:

  • Unsolicited job ads or offers via messaging platforms or social media
  • Seemingly genuine companies or recruitment agencies where the contact details or logo don’t seem quite right
  • Offers that are ‘too good to be true’ with high rates of pay for simple online tasks
  • Requests for money
  • Requests for personal information outside of a verified application process

Many scammers send messages out of the blue, either offering a job or asking you to apply for a job that seems too good to be true. What qualifies as ‘too good to be true’ often comes down to gut feel, says Luengen.

“If you’re straight out of university and you're applying for your first job, and all of a sudden you get a job offer of $150,000 and unlimited vacation days, you probably know that seems a little bit too good to be true,” she says.

“Or something that's offering you work from home at $80 to $100 an hour with no qualifications. You probably know that that's something that just doesn't seem right.”

Stop and do a sense check

With scammers sending out so many messages, though, sometimes a message might come at just the right time to seem legitimate.

“If you’ve just put in a job application, and you've clicked on an ad somewhere, a scam message might just seem to align with the timing,” says Luengen. “But do that sense check: if you stop and think about it for a couple of seconds, does it make sense that this job would align with you what you've applied for, and your general skill set?”

If it doesn’t make sense, Luengen says sharing the scam is the best thing to do.

“Ignore it, report it, and then share it to your community so that they're more aware of it,” she says.

Luengen also points out that there is no legitimate reason for a potential employer to ask you for money.

“You should never have to pay for a job application,” she says. “There's no legitimate reason to ask you to pay.”

What to do if you’re worried you’ve been scammed

If you do fall victim to a scammer, there are actions you can take. The first thing to do is report the scam to Cert NZ, who can investigate the crime and, if you’ve shared any of your personal information, New Zealand’s national identity and cyber support service ID Care for support and advice on what to do.

Luengen warns that the feeling of embarrassment that comes with having been scammed can stop people from sharing, but this is something that scammers count on to succeed.

“We need to reduce the stigma of falling for a scam,” says Luengen. “It can be so hard to do because you might be feeling stupid or embarrassed, but the more that people can share their experience, the more you create awareness, and also reduce that stigma.

“You might be thinking in hindsight, it was a silly message – I should have known, or I shouldn’t have fallen for it. But it’s that stigma and that negative self-talk that allows these crimes to keep happening – because nobody wants to speak up.

“We need to look out for one another and have the courage to speak up. The more we do so, the less power scammers have to prey on us and our hopes of finding that right job.”

Want to stay informed and protect yourself from employment scams? Visit the SEEK security and privacy hub to learn more.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually. Published May 2024.

Information provided in this article is general only and it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. SEEK provides no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability or completeness. Before taking any course of action related to this article you should make your own inquiries and seek independent advice (including the appropriate legal advice) on whether it is suitable for your circumstances.

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