Fraudsters have been taking advantage of rising unemployment in Britain as they attempt to scam people desperate to find a job.
Investigators say con artists have been ‘very quick’ to adjust to the pandemic and are preying on jobseekers through fake listings posted on popular employment websites.
Steve Luetchford, of London, has been out of work since January after leaving his job to visit family in New Zealand. Arriving back in the country just as the UK entered lockdown, the job market has been ‘dead’ ever since, he said.
Last week, however, there was a glimmer of hope after he heard back from someone he thought was a recruiter for a HR assistant role. He’d mainly been applying for jobs advertised on LinkedIn.
‘I was so excited,’ he told Metro.co.uk.
‘It was the first time I’d gotten a proper response or lead since I started applying. It’s been pretty dead on the job front for a long time.’
Things started to turn sour after he sensed something wasn’t right in his first Zoom interview.
Details about the job were too scarce, the questions were too broad and the interview was too short.
In a follow-up phone call with a man who only gave his name as Robert, Mr Luetchford was told he needed to pay £280 for accreditation.
He said: ‘It just seemed so off. They didn’t have enough information from me. It was too easy.’
In another Zoom interview to confirm final details, which he decided to record, Mr Luetchford is again told he needs to transfer the £280 before his application can proceed.
Mr Luetchford asks for the bank details before the interviewer mutes her microphone and appears to phone another person.
After the interview ends, Mr Luetchford receives a phone call from Robert, who asks what the delay is in sending the money. He is told the contract can only be sent after payment is made.
When Mr Luetchford resists and suggests meeting at a police station, the man becomes aggressive, yelling: ‘I don’t care about no f***ing police, man. There’s nothing police can do to me.
‘I don’t care about the cops. Who do you think the cops are? The cops are easier to deal with than you.
‘You’re the only one who has tried this approach. The company is registered, it’s ready to go, there’s nothing unusual about this arrangement.’
Mr Luetchford’s and Metro.co.uk’s attempts to contact the companies involved, Centric Solutions Staffing Systems and Hire Works Staffing, were unsuccessful.
The training institute, CIPD, also told Mr Luetchford they would be investigating who was trying to sell training courses on their behalf.
‘It’s important that people know about this. It’s the not the time for people to be losing money,’ Mr Luetchford said.
National Economic Crime Centre fraud threat lead Jed Hodgson said con artists were ‘hooking people on hope’ had ‘very quickly’ adapted to the fact more people are looking for work.
‘They are hooking people on hope,’ he said.
‘In this case, it’s the hope of getting employment after a very difficult period.’
Mr Hodgson warned sophisticated employment scams, which have offshore structures and shell accounts, could be hard to spot but said ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’.
He said: ‘Any immediacy around the offer is a red flag, especially if there’s a real push to make any payments. Generally companies won’t do that.
‘A genuine company will have its own domain and proper email addresses.’
Metro.co.uk has recently seen a number of posts from recruiters complaining they had been ‘inundated’ with CVs after their name was used in fake job adverts.
‘This hasn’t happened to us before and I can’t see what it achieves but for any people in my network thinking of taking the time applying for one of these roles please know they are sadly not real,’ one said.
A spokesperson for LinkedIn said the majority of fake job advertisements were blocked before they reached the website.
‘We work every day to ensure that our members have a safe, trusted and professional experience on LinkedIn. We’re committed to fighting any fraudulent activity to protect our professional community so that our members can focus on finding their next opportunity,’ they said.
‘Our members come first, and we take great responsibility in keeping them safe from fake jobs. Fraudulent activity is not permitted anywhere on our site, including fake jobs, fake profiles and fake news.’
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