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Job scams: How to avoid becoming a victim

Updated 19 Apr 2017

The sluggish global economy has pushed many people to seek opportunities far from home, and the lure of making good money is often at the forefront of an expat’s decision to move abroad. But sadly, many unsuspecting job seekers have been drawn by the promise of a fantastic work opportunity and the chance to earn a fortune, only to learn later that they have been the victim of a job scam.

Scammers have increasingly taken advantage of expat job seekers, leading them into false promises of work opportunities in order to either gain access to their personal information or solicit money from them.

Such illicit activities originating out of West Africa and the Middle East are the most common, with Nigerian scams being the most notorious. And thanks to the hardship factor of these destinations, where expats usually earn very high salaries, with fantastic benefits, it’s often easy to lure unsuspecting job seekers in with offers of riches.

Types of job scams

The most common methods in which job scammers operate include:

  • Placing an advert for a job on a legitimate job portal for a bogus company

  • Advertising a fake job for an existing well-known company

  • Pretending to be a recruitment agent and directly contacting a potential victim with an offer of a job

Some of these are sophisticated operations which go so far as to create fake company websites, social media pages and email templates that look professional and legitimate. The email or job ad is often linked to an online form which requests all your personal details to be inserted before the recruitment process can go any further.

Scams have even become more elaborate, with the scammers not only creating bogus hiring companies, but also linking to other fake immigration consultants and insurance companies, in order to reinforce their deception.

In most cases, expats should realise that, if the offer is too good to be true, it most likely is. 

Steps to avoid becoming a victim of a job scam

It's important that expats do their homework before deciding to proceed with any job application abroad. Here are some steps that they can take to avoid becoming a victim of a job scam:

Research the company thoroughly - search online, contact local government offices and the relevant embassy, check the company’s credentials and whether it is registered with the applicable authorities, ask around on local forums if anyone has experience with the company or has had similar job offers.

Be wary of providing any personal or sensitive information, such as sending copies of your ID or passport, bank statements and pay slips. Scammers will often ask for this information, supposedly for a pre-employment credit or security check.

Never pay over money to a recruitment agent; if they are asking for money then they are likely trying to con you. This is a common scam whereby the recruiter asks for money upfront to supposedly pay for things such as a credit check, work permit, visa or insurance. They may also ask for money to cover the application process, uniforms or training manuals. This is often done by asking the potential candidate to purchase a pre-paid Visa debit card and send it to the interviewer or to transfer money via Western Union.

Be wary of any job ads or emails that are riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. Also, check the domain name used for the company’s website and email address. If the offer is coming from a generic address like Gmail or Yahoo, it is most likely not a legitimate source.

It’s unlikely that a company will hire anyone from abroad without a rigorous recruitment process involving several interviews, background and reference checks, and sometimes even psychometric testing, so any company that is supposedly prepared to hire you immediately without even an interview is not likely a genuine organisation.

Phone the employer to ensure that they really do have the particular job advertised, and if you’ve been contacted directly by them, request to speak to the person that contacted you.

Ask the recruiter as many specific questions about the position and the company as possible. A legitimate recruiter should be able to answer any questions in great detail. Here are a few examples:

  • Does the company have a regional and an international presence?

  • How many employees are there?

  • What duties are involved?

  • How many people will you be working with?

  • What is the reporting structure within the company?

  • Why is the position currently open?

  • What specific benefits are offered with the position?

  • What type of products/services does the company provide?

  • What type of clients or customers does the company deal with? 

  • How long has the company been in operation?

  • Where is the company formally registered?

  • Where will the current position be based?

Although it can be time-consuming, it’s essential that expats gather as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision about whether or not a job offer is real and whether or not they want to proceed with an application. It will all be worth it, in the long run, to avoid becoming yet another statistic in the growing network of global job scams.

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