Australians are being urged to use caution when applying for jobs as Westpac data reveals a 1,000% increase in recruitment scams.

Nearly $17.4 million has been lost to recruitment scams so far this year, according to reports made to ACCC’s Scamwatch – approximately double what was reported to have been lost in 2022.

Criminals behind fake job postings aim to trick job seekers into making a payment to or sharing personal information with someone they believe is a potential employer.

“We are seeing more people considering a potential move to achieve a higher salary or who are thinking about taking on a second job for additional income, largely due to increasing cost-of living-pressures,” said Therese Kaley, managing director of Sydney IT recruitment agency Better Staff.

“Unfortunately, this also means we’re seeing more job scams, particularly through messaging apps like WhatsApp where scammers target candidates and trick them into sending money to secure a role.”

Scammers will commonly disguise their ruse as a multi-level marketing opportunity, convincing victims they need to buy products before they can make money.

They might also attempt to trick a victim into sending cash under the pretence of paying for training or equipment.

“Often, scammers will have fraudulently obtained some of your information like your phone number or address, which can make an offer sound legitimate,” Westpac head of fraud Ben Young said.

“They also exploit the application process by tricking you into sharing more personal details like your driver’s licence, passport, or tax file numbers.”

Australians aged between 31 and 40 years are more likely to fall victim to recruitment scams, representing 32% of cases, while those aged between 18 and 30 represented 30% of cases, Westpac found.

Aussies lost $8.7 million to recruitment scams in 2022, making up part of the record $3.1 billion stolen by the criminals.

While the prevalence of fake jobs has risen, the most damage from scammers appears to be from investment scams.

Aussies lost more than $151 million to investment scams in the first five months of 2023 – up 180% on the same period of 2021.

The ACCC recently gave its blessing for many of Australia’s biggest banks to team up to produce an industry standard for preventing and disrupting scammers.

Hunting for a new job? 5 tips to help you avoid scams

While scams can be difficult to detect, Westpac has outlined some ‘red flags’ job seekers should beware of when hunting for employment opportunities:

  1. Be cautious of calls, texts, or emails offering you a job you haven’t applied for or heard of
  2. If you receive a job offer, sure to research the business or job to make sure it’s legit
  3. Be wary of opportunities that ask you to recruit investors or employees – it may be a pyramid scheme
  4. Don’t hand over cash for the likes of training or equipment before starting a new job
  5. Don’t take a job that asks you to move money in or out of your own bank account – scammers often trick people into moving money linked to criminal activity on their behalf

“While it’s common to provide certain details in a job application, a legitimate Australian employer will never ask for things like your bank account details without a formal job offer,” Ms Kaley said.

“When researching any new job opportunities, always check if a business website or recruitment officer is legitimate and be cautious if you’re asked to make a payment as part of the application process.

“A recruitment agency would never request funds from a candidate.”


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