What are employment scams?
An employment or job scam is where a cyber criminal encourages you to apply for a position that doesn’t exist. Employment scams can take many shapes and forms and can have serious consequences. Some people have reported their identity being stolen after they provided their driver’s licence or passport, thinking it was part of the employment process. People have also unknowingly helped criminals to launder money.
This guide will help to inform you of the most common types of employment scams and what to look out for when applying for a job.
How big is the problem?
Scamwatch figures supplied in January 2023 showed Australians reported losses of $9.6 million to job and employment scams in 2022, opens in new window. According to their website, this figure was nearly 260% higher than the entire previous year.
However, as many cases go unreported, this is likely only the tip of the iceberg.
Common employment scams to watch out for
Employment scams might take different forms. Here are three of the most common.
The upfront fee job
The cyber criminal contacts you by email, phone, SMS or social media and offers you a ‘job opportunity’ with high returns that you can do from home. To accept the job, you need to pay an upfront fee for a ‘starter kit’ or ‘training’. You may also be instructed to provide your driver’s licence or passport as part of the application process. However, the job never existed, and the person not only loses their funds, but faces the risk of identity theft.
The commission or accounting job
You may come across this job advertised on job sites or on social media, or the cyber criminal may contact you directly. Typically, they offer an opportunity to earn commission by transferring funds paid into your account into another offshore account or into cryptocurrency or gift cards. In exchange, you get to keep part of the payment as a commission. These funds have likely come from a scam victim.
The dream job
Cyber criminals may pose as legitimate organisations advertising enticing job prospects. These may be advertised on job noticeboards or social media sites. When you apply, they may put you through an interview process and then offer you the job and ask you to provide your driver’s licence, passport and other credentials as part of the onboarding process. However, when you turn up for work at the organisation, no one has ever heard of you.
The dream job case study
Danny* had been looking for a job for several weeks and had shared his resume on various employment and social media sites. He was contacted via a messenger app from the “CEO” of an employer he was very keen to work for. He couldn’t believe his luck. Danny checked the LinkedIn profile of the CEO and was very excited to have been contacted by the top boss.
A few days later, Danny was invited to a telephone interview with the “CEO”. The interview was short, but it went well. At the end, he was offered the job on the spot. He was told he would need to complete induction training which he would have to pay upfront for. He would also need to provide his driver’s licence, passport and Medicare details for the “Human Resources” team. Danny didn’t hesitate as he was keen to impress the CEO.
A few days later, Danny arrived at the venue he was given for his induction training. No one else was there. Danny waited for a few hours, before returning home wondering if he had the wrong date.
He tried to contact the CEO but couldn’t get through. He wasn’t too concerned as he would run it by his boss on the Monday when he started work. He spent an extra 30 minutes on the Monday morning making sure he looked perfect for his new job. When he arrived at the company, no one had heard of him or was expecting him. That’s when Danny began to realise something had gone wrong. He found another LinkedIn profile for the CEO and contacted him directly. The real CEO told Danny he had been scammed.
Not only did Danny lose the funds he transferred for the induction training, but he also discovered the cyber criminals had used his driver’s licence to create bank accounts in his name.
He also felt extremely embarrassed for being caught out. However, it is important to remember employment scammers are very skilled in their approach. They have their scam detailed right down to the point where they create fake LinkedIn profiles of CEOs to add to the deception.
How to protect yourself from employment scams
Some red flags to look out for
- An employer contacts you directly via messenger channels about an exciting new opportunity, promising high returns.
- The employer requests for the interview to be done over the phone instead of in-person. You get offered the job on-the-spot.
- You’re asked to pay an induction fee for training, or start-up materials.
- You’re asked to provide your credentials such as driver's licence, passport or Medicare details as part of the application process.
- You are asked to transfer money on behalf of someone else. In exchange, you may also be offered a commission.
Steps to protect yourself from employment scams
- Be very suspicious of any unsolicited ‘work from home’ or other employment opportunities, particularly if they contact you via social media.
- Confirm that an employment offer is genuine by researching the company thoroughly first. If it is an existing company, call them directly through their official contact number to confirm the job prospect.
- If the offer is from an employer or company you have never heard of before, ask for references from other people who have worked there and make the effort to contact these people. Doing an internet search for reviews on the company can also help.
- Avoid any employment opportunities that demand an upfront payment. Few genuine employers will demand this.
- Be extra cautious if the employer asks you to provide your credentials such as driver’s licence or passport, particularly in the early stage of the interview process.
- Never agree to receive or forward funds through your account as part of a job.
How we can help
If you’re a NAB customer and you believe your business or personal accounts have been impacted by fraud or a scam, we’re here to help. Explore the immediate steps you can take to protect yourself and discover when you should get in touch with us to make a report.
IDCARE is Australia and New Zealand's not-for-profit counselling and support service set up to assist Australians impacted by identity theft and cyber-related crimes.
IDCARE can assist NAB customers to navigate through the process when identity details or credentials have been compromised through fraud or scams. IDCARE is a free service for all Australians.
Australian Government | Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)
The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) brings cyber security capabilities from across the Australian Government together in a single location. It’s the hub for private and public sector collaboration and information sharing to combat cyber security threats. ACSC provides topical, relevant and timely information on how home internet users and small businesses can protect themselves from, and reduce the risk of, cyber security threats such as software vulnerabilities, online scams, malicious activities and risky online behaviours.
Australian Government | ReportCyber
ReportCyber is a secure reporting and referral service for cybercrime and online incidents which may be in breach of Australian law. The ReportCyber website provides a cybercrime reporting mechanism as well as helpful information about cybercrime.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission | Scamwatch
Scamwatch provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams using publications, videos and other online resources.
Australian Government | Office of the eSafety Commissioner
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides online safety education for Australian children and young people, a complaints service for young Australians who experience serious cyberbullying, and address illegal online content.
Australian Government | Attorney-General’s Department
The Attorney-General’s Department website provides helpful information and resources about your rights and protections in regards to identity security, freedom of information and cyber security. The Department has developed a range of resources to assist people protect their identity and recover from the effects of identity crime.
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