Avoiding Job Scams

James Bradbrook is Employer Engagement Support Officer (Vacancies) for the Career Zone. 

How many times have you read a story about someone being conned out of money and thought, “Idiot! I would never have fallen for that!”? Don’t be so sure.

Finding the right job can be hard work. Sadly, it can be even harder when unscrupulous individuals target jobseekers with the aim of conning them.

Recruitment scams are a growing issue. In 2017, the government estimated that up to 10% of jobseekers have fallen victim to a recruitment scam. Younger people and visitors from other countries are especially at risk – categories that many of our students fall into.

The scammer ecosystem is constantly evolving, so it’s difficult to provide a comprehensive guide, but here are some of the most common that come across our desks in the Career Zone.

The Impersonators …

All fraud involves some element of deception, but this kind hinges on someone pretending to represent a legitimate company. They post a job advert, using the name of the company to attract applicants.

Once you apply, matters can escalate in all sorts of ways. For example:

  • The highly detailed personal information you’ve helpfully supplied is then used to facilitate identity fraud, phishing scams, etc.
  • You bag the job (or so you think!), hand over your bank details so they can pay your wages, and suddenly your bank account is compromised.
  • You’re asked to pay fees of some sort. This can be anything from a background check to a “processing” fee of some sort or travel arrangements (especially with jobs abroad).

Would you like to help my drug cartel launder some money?

This sort of fraud usually takes the form of a foreign company asking for “local representatives” to process payments from their customers. The “representative” may be asked to use their own bank account or set up a new one, which they then use to receive payments from one party and pass it on to another, keeping an agreed share of the money for themselves as their “fee”.

The main risk here is not that the representative will get ripped off by their “employers”, although they may be. Rather it is that their accounts are being used to launder money, the source of which may be as minor as eBay fraud or part of a far larger operation by criminal organisations.

Best of all – for the criminals – is that if the authorities do manage to track the passage of funds, they find … you! And while you might not be involved in the wider crime, you will have committed an extremely serious criminal offense which can carry lengthy prison sentences. International students must be particularly vigilant against these sorts of scams as even minor offenses can compromise their visa status.

The point is not to develop a paranoid suspicion of every recruiter, but to take  responsibility for your job search. If something about a role or company doesn’t seem right, investigate it! Get in touch with Career Zone – we can’t tell you what to do, but we will tell you if we think your worries are rational or not.

How can I avoid fraud? 

There’s no foolproof way to avoid being scammed, but you can usually save yourself a lot of pain by knowing the warning signs. Here are some to look for:

Professionalism (or lack thereof!). Are the company’s communications professional and well-written? Bad spelling, grammar, etc. are often a sign that you’re not dealing with a legitimate company. Again, this is definitely a red flag if you’re dealing with someone claiming to represent a large company, but you might sometimes want to make allowances if you’re dealing with smaller companies or someone who’s not writing in their native language.

Unofficial email accounts. Be wary if you are asked to submit an application to a Hotmail, Gmail or similar account. You have no way of verifying whether the person is who they say they are or if they are acting with proper authority from the company they claim to be working for. Only communicate this way if you are 100% sure who you are dealing with. Large corporations will hardly ever communicate this way, although smaller companies might sometimes do so.

Websites. Does the company have a website? Does it look professional? If the company doesn’t have a website ask yourself how the company survives without such an essential marketing component. Very small companies and start-ups may not always have a website but this is unusual and definitely something to investigate further.

Also check to make sure that the domain name of the website is correct. Sometimes fraudsters will create a duplicate website with an address that is subtly different from what it should be e.g. adding or removing a single character. These doctored addresses are very difficult to spot unless you’re paying close attention. The same applies to email addresses. Does the email domain match the company’s website domain? There are legitimate reasons for such a mismatch, but it can also be a warning sign.

If you have suspicions that a website may not be authentic, there are a variety of online tools that you can use to look up information about it (e.g. http://www.domainwhitepages.com/). If the website of an established company is very new, or registered in a country that seems unlikely, there’s a good chance it may be fraudulent.

Lastly, if you’re applying online, is their website HTTPS secure?

Registrations. Nearly all companies are required to meet certain legal requirements to keep operating. In the UK, at bare minimum, all incorporated companies must register certain details with Companies House. Depending on the nature of the company, additional registrations may be required: for example, finance companies must register with the Financial Conduct Authority, charities with the Charity Commission, etc. If a company doesn’t have the registrations you would expect, ask them why. There may be a legitimate reason but then again …

Other contact details. What other contact details does the company have? Do they match your expectations? Registered companies have to provide addresses to their regulators – however, these may not be identical to their operating address. Often, companies will use the address of their accountants or solicitors, so don’t automatically assume that this is a red flag. Use of PO Box addresses is uncommon but is sometimes employed by very small businesses that operate from residential premises. Companies in sensitive industries (especially defence or pharmaceutical companies) may also employ them. Telephone contacts are also worth scrutinizing – does a large company only seem to have a mobile telephone for contact? Or are you being asked to call a premium rate number?

Remarkably easy recruitment processes. Ever been offered an amazing, well-paid job without even having to sit an interview? No? Well, neither have we and that’s because such things do not exist. The better paid or otherwise more attractive a company or role, the pickier the recruiter can afford to be. There’s a simple reason why most graduate recruitment schemes have high entry requirements and are arduous affairs with multiple stages. The easier the recruitment process, the less desirable the role is likely to be.  If the company is offering great rewards for little in return, you should be suspicious. Remember, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.

Trust your instincts

As mentioned above, there is no guaranteed method that can avoid fraud completely, but by staying vigilant and thinking critically about the sort of roles you come across you can reduce your risk considerably.

Nor should you rely solely on others to keep you safe and that includes recruitment agencies and job boards (and that includes University ones!). Regulation and enforcement in this arena is notoriously lax and operators will always face commercial pressure to advertise more roles as opposed to less. This is particularly true in times of economic difficulty. And there is always the additional problem of human error.

The point here is not to develop a paranoid suspicion of every recruiter, but to take personal responsibility for your job search. If something about a role or company just doesn’t seem right, investigate it! Ask your friends and family for their view. Or get in touch with Career Zone – we can’t tell you what to do, but we will tell you if we think your worries are rational or not.

Don’t think it can’t happen to you!

How many times have you read a story about someone being conned out of egregious sums of money and thought, “Idiot! I would never have fallen for that!”?

Don’t be so sure. Under normal circumstances, you might be right. But what if you are vulnerable at a particular moment? Are you short of cash? Have you just had a hard breakup? Struggling with your course? Family trouble?

All sorts of life events can temporarily blow us off course and weaken our judgement and we are also vulnerable when we find ourselves in stressful or unfamiliar situations. What affects each individual will be different, but anybody can be vulnerable in the right circumstances.

In the current circumstances of the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic difficulties accompanying it, everyone is under greater and unfamiliar pressures than ever before.

In these circumstances it is even more important to be vigilant and stay connected with people who can sense-check your decisions … and for you to do the same for them.

More information

If you’d like to read around the subject further, here are some useful links to get you started.

Safer Jobshttps://www.safer-jobs.com – This non-profit website is a collaboration between industry, government and law enforcement. Useful general information but not regularly updated.

Action Fraudhttps://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud/recruitment-scams – Managed by the City of London police, this website provides general information on fraud and cyber crime. The link we’ve provided is a specific page dealing with recruitment fraud, but there’s plenty of other interesting information.

CIFAShttps://www.cifas.org.uk/insight/fraud-risk-focus-blog/internet-safety-tips-for-students – Another anti-fraud industry body, but with plenty of information for consumers too. The link connects to some general internet safety tips specifically for students.

Need more help with your job search? https://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/ 

 

 

From GBP Intern, to Business Manager to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education)

To mark the launch of the ENHANCE internships Jonnie Critchley shares how his career has progressed since beginning as a GBP intern at the University of Exeter. 

Jonnie Critchley, Business Manager to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) and former GBP Intern

As Business Manager to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), I’m fortunate to work closely alongside senior educational leaders across the University, and with the Officers and Student Representatives of the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union. I have played a role in developing the University’s new Education Strategy, as well as other important projects such as a recent review of Wellbeing. Now, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges and pressures it brings, it’s a privilege to work with so many inspiring colleagues, all focused on doing the very best by the students of Exeter. It’s also exciting to see the number of Graduate Business Partnership (GBP) and Student Campus Partnership (SCP) opportunities available to get involved in this work – a perfect example of the kind of impact ambitious graduates and students can have in such roles.

“…the GBP opportunity stood out to me…in providing a solution to that frequent problem of ‘need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience’”

I’ve progressed through a series of roles within the University, but my first was as a GBP Administration and Projects Assistant working in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences (CEMPS), in 2014. I’m not an Exeter graduate; I had just finished a Master’s Degree at Warwick, was looking for my first job, and was particularly attracted to a career in Higher Education. HE, by and large, isn’t a sector that you enter via graduate schemes like Finance or Law, so the GBP opportunity stood out to me. It was also perfect, in providing a solution to that frequent problem of ‘need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience’ by offering a graduate-level role structured around specific projects and training opportunities.

In my GBP role I took on a range of administrative duties as well as specific projects such as organising two academic conferences and a series of public lectures. I used the role to learn the basics of working in an office environment, to benefit from as many training opportunities as I could, and to start to build my understanding of how a University worked and to build relationships with academic and professional services colleagues within CEMPS which I’ve maintained since. The networking events and workshops organised as part of the GBP programme itself were also beneficial, for learning team working, problem solving and leadership skills. I should also say that I met my now wife at a GBP training event!

“I spent just under 8 months as a GBP, and it provided a fantastic foundation for my career since. The experience gained could have been translated into any number of careers; I was able to progress within the University into roles which have always had students and education at their heart.” 

I spent just under 8 months as a GBP, and it provided a fantastic foundation for my career since. The experience gained could have been translated into any number of careers; I was able to progress within the University into roles which have always had students and education at their heart. I worked in Student Recruitment, and then in industrial engagement roles where I was fortunate to be closely involved in the launch of Exeter’s first Degree Apprenticeship programmes. All along I was building skills and knowledge that have helped me to where I now find myself, including leading high-level discussions with senior management and external stakeholders. I was also really fortunate to have the opportunity to represent the University externally, including building a successful relationship with employers such as IBM and BT, and working at an international Mining Industry conference in Toronto, Canada.

 “I’m still early in my career journey, and believe that the success and opportunities I’ve enjoyed to date have all stemmed, in various ways, from the start which the GBP scheme gave me.”

I began my current role working with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) in August 2018 after spending some time as Student Recruitment Manager in CEMPS. I’m still early in my career journey, and believe that the success and opportunities I’ve enjoyed to date have all stemmed, in various ways, from the start which the GBP scheme gave me. In particular, when I look back, it was the respect with which I was treated as a GBP, often by senior colleagues in the College that made a big difference; as a GBP and in roles since I always felt I had a contribution to make. That couldn’t be more true of the GBPs and SCPs who’ll get involved in enhancing education for Exeter students in response to Covid-19, through the Enhance Internships.

We’ve got your back… forever!

Cat Holt is a Careers Consultant (PG Programmes) in the University of Exeter Business School. 

Cat Holt, Careers Consultant (PG Programmes) University of Exeter Business School

Did you know that you have access to career support even after you graduate? We’ve got your back… forever!

We provide career support throughout your degree and it doesn’t stop there, after graduation you still have access to a wealth of career resources.

Life can be unpredictable; your gap year travel plans fell through, the dream graduate job isn’t living up to your expectations, the six interviews you attended last month all rejected you… whatever position you are in as a graduate we are here to support you.

The good news is that you won’t lose access to My Career Zone (just make sure that you select the ‘Graduate’ option at log-in). This gives you access to a smorgasbord of tantalising career resources. These are my top 5 resources that I bet you didn’t realise were available for graduates:

  1. You can still search for jobs and internships

The jobs advertised on My Career Zone aren’t just for undergraduates, there are loads of jobs available for graduates. Plus don’t forget to search for GBP internship opportunities which are open to recent graduates (up to 3 years), if you haven’t found a graduate job yet then these opportunities can be the doorway into work and often lead to permanent roles https://mycareerzone.exeter.ac.uk/students/jobs

  1. You can still attend workshops and webinars

Yes, that’s right there are still lots of events that you can book onto in My Career Zone and attend in person. Or if you now live in Bali, no worries, we have a selection of webinars that cover lots of major career topics instead. Check out the current list, there’s even one called ‘Help I’ve Graduated’! http://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/events/webinars/

  1. You can still apply for a Career Mentor

Still not found the right job and want advice from someone in the sector? Well a Career Mentor may be the right step for you. Recent graduates (up to 3 years) can apply for an experienced professional to provide career information and advice for 6 months. The next round of applications opens in September and the mentors will be listed on My Career Zone: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/research/mentor/

  1. You can learn new skills that are relevant to the workplace

We have specific resources aimed at graduates to help you succeed in the workplace. From career skills like improving your work-life balance to IT skills such as Excel, you’ll find some really useful videos and articles on My Career Zone Digital:

IT Skills and Workplace Skills https://mycareerzone.careercentre.me/u/sbx65b8q

  1. You can still book one-to-one appointments

We can arrange an appointment with a Career Consultant, this can be in person, via Skype or by phone. Maybe you’re struggling with job rejections and want to talk through your feedback, perhaps you want some help refocusing your career ideas, or maybe you are thinking about postgraduate study; we can offer impartial career advice on all these areas and help you move forward on your career journey.

Just email or call the Career Zone to book: Exeter 01392 724493 Penryn 01326 253735

“I really hadn’t realised that I was still able to access the careers service after my masters had finished. To start with I updated my My Career Zone account to a graduate account and then started booking onto events that I never got round to attending during my course. I then had some one-to-one appointments to help me focus my ideas and thanks to their support I’m applying to graduate schemes. Don’t feel you are alone after graduation, the Career Zone have been so helpful.” Diana Belza, MSc in Marketing and Finance

So go out into the world, enjoy your next steps in life, but don’t forget we are here if you need us.