Recruitment scams: have you been targeted?

Recruitment scams have already reportedly used fake job offers to extract more than £87 million from innocent job seekers around the world.

It can be easy to fall for recruitment fraud. The scammer may claim to be from a legitimate IT recruitment agency – even Ernest Gordon.

At some point though, they will ask for a deposit or fee. You pay, because the opportunity sounds too good to pass up. “Big projects”. “Generous salary”. What’s not to like?

But there is no job. And that money is not coming back.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure you aren’t being targeted:

What is a recruitment scam?

More properly known as recruitment fraud or employment fraud, a recruitment scam involves a fake recruiter targeting a job seeker to offer them a job that doesn’t exist.

This may involve sending the job seeker emails, social media messages, and – very commonly – messages on apps like WhatsApp.

Eventually, the scammer will ask for money. Or they will simply take all of the job seeker’s personal information or bank details to sell or use in further scams.

If you’re a business leader, the flip side of this may involve the scammer pretending to be you. They spoof your business to target innocent job seekers.

Since around Q1 2023, recruitment fraud has been a constant and growing problem in the UK.

How do recruitment scams work?

The first thing you know, you’re contacted by someone claiming to be a recruiter or an employer’s agent. They will likely point to some made-up job listings or say you’ve been headhunted for an opportunity.

The classic ask is, “May I share more information?” You say yes. They send it.

They may have a legitimate-looking website or forms for you to fill in. They may send you to an actual recruitment company’s website. They may even phone you for an “interview”.

At some point, you will be told that your application is deemed “successful”.

There then follows a bunch of information about the arrangements you need to make to take up your new role.

How recruitment scammers take your money

There are a few different ways recruitment scammers may try to take your money:

1) Arrangement scams

The job the scammer presents you with may be in another country. They will contact you to talk about travel, accommodation, and possibly visa requirements.

They will offer to help with these arrangements – possibly even refer to you another agency. This agency may also appear legitimate. They may have a website or be contactable by phone.

But at some point, they will ask for a deposit for travel or accommodation or some sort of “administration fee”.

Alternatively, they may ask you to provide bank details (more than those you normally would to receive payment). You’ll need to collect your “pay”, after all.

Of course, none of these arrangements are ever made and the only person that ends up paying is you.

2) Task scams

Task scams don’t offer the sort of jobs offered by bona fide recruitment companies like Ernest Gordon. But they’re seeing huge and worrying growth worldwide.

This kind of scam involves you completing relatively easy work “tasks” on a regular basis. This might be watching a video or creating an “order”.

Here, the scammer will almost certainly be “paying” you in cryptocurrency. Known fraud fronts include Digital Logic and WebWyrm.

These scams are usually the easiest to spot. But if you’re in dire need of a job and like the idea of working from home, they can have unusual attraction. The scammers may:

-Initially even appear to send some small funds to your crypto wallet

-Add you to group chats to allay your suspicions (everyone else in the chat is a scammer)

How to protect yourself against employment fraud

1) Check for spelling and grammar

Some attempts at recruitment fraud are very easy to spot. The giveaway is often bizarre grammar or poor spelling.

2) Look at the email address

Recruiters at a legitimate recruitment agency are unlikely to have “.hotmail” or “.yahoo” email accounts. If yours does, it’s probably not a good sign.

3) Know legitimate recruiters don’t ask for deposits

It is incredibly unlikely that a real recruitment company will ask job seekers to pay any kind of deposit or administration fee. Be very wary if yours does.

4) Contact the organisation directly

Check out the job you’re being offered in more detail. Look up the official company registration of your prospective employer. Does the company actually exist?

If so, get in touch. Ask them whether they are aware of you or if they use the recruitment agency that you have been dealing with.

5) Contact the relevant embassy

Will this new job involve moving abroad? See if the amount quoted by your recruiter for visa costs squares with the actual cost asked for by the embassy.

6) Say you’ll make your own arrangements

Scammers trying to get you to pay them “deposits” and “fees” will not like the idea of you going elsewhere to make travel or accommodation plans.

If you meet resistance or they insist you must use their “preferred” agency, there’s a high chance you are being scammed.

Recruitment fraud and you

Taking your money is bad enough. But the hopes of a new job that can be dashed – maybe even after you’ve quit your old one – can be heartbreaking.

Recruitment scams are growing in frequency though. Be aware of the warning signs and be sure you’re confident you’re actually talking to a legitimate recruiter.

Concerned that an email or other point of contact you’ve received from us might be a scam?

You can reach out to us by email at or by phone on 0117 329 0100.