Watch out for recruitment scams

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Keytrade Bank

One day you'll find the job of a lifetime … and then you'll be off. About 25 years ago, this commercial became part of Belgians' collective memory. At the time, people still cut job adverts out of the newspaper and likely still sent their application letter by post. Today, of course, we do all this electronically.

The internet now offers a virtually endless stream of possibilities. Job adverts are posted on job portals, LinkedIn and even social media such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. This has made the labour market more accessible, but also more vulnerable to certain risks.

What are recruitment scams?

One of these risks is the increase in fake job adverts. Fraudsters post or send fake job offers with attractive salaries and benefits. When you click on such an advert or respond to an offer, this can be the start of an unpleasant experience.

In the US, such recruitment scams are one of the fastest growing types of digital fraud. The Federal Trade Commission – a government service monitoring consumer rights – registered more than 110,000 scams in 2023. Cases have multiplied since five years ago (28,000). What is also remarkable is that recruitment scams appear to be a form of fraud that hits victims hard: on average they lose USD 2,137 per case. This makes it almost the costliest form of fraud, second only to investment fraud.

Of course, Belgium is quite different from the US, but online fraud doesn't recognise borders. What works in the US is bound to make its way over here sooner or later.

How do recruitment scams work?

Recruitment scams can take various forms. You typically receive a friendly message from a recruitment agency, headhunter or consultant on WhatsApp or another platform. They will say they found your name in a job seekers database and ask if you are open to a job opportunity. You may also receive a job offer without any introduction or framework.

You can apply online – often by clicking on a link in the message. This process often looks very professional and requires you to follow a ‘registration procedure’. The recruiter may also ask you to share your data to allow him ’to prepare the contract’. You create a profile, enter your contact details, explain why you want the job, upload your degrees or other qualifications, and so on. The whole process often looks very professional. You may also be asked to take a test. Sometimes the friendly recruiter says they want to thank you for your efforts right away. For example, you may quickly gain access to an online (crypto) wallet where a 'financial reward' awaits you.

You may think the reward looks good, so you accept your first 'real' assignment. And then a second and a third... However, at some point your wallet or platform gets blocked and you won't be able to continue working. Or it may not be possible to transfer your ’digital euros or dollars’ to your bank account. In order to continue, you will naturally have to pay or the recruiter will ask you for your card details. Meanwhile, you are still being supported by that extremely likeable young man or woman who has gradually built a close friendship with you and has even sent you photos of their kids …

Of course, there are 101 variants of the above method: a fake advert on a website or Facebook, an email with an attractive offer, a fake job offer via professional networks such as LinkedIn, a job offer abroad that requires you to arrange a (paid) work permit for that country first, and so on. With the help of AI, a fraudster can easily pretend to be a real recruiter without you noticing anything is wrong. The methods are diverse and often ingenious, but the goal remains the same: to exploit you personally and financially.


How can you protect yourself from recruitment scams?

  • Carry out a thorough investigation of the recruiter or company offering the job. Search for reviews, news articles and other mentions to verify their reputation. Please note that some fraudsters also use the names of well-known companies.
  • Verify that the contact details provided in the job advert match those on the official company website.
  • Perform a search by putting the exact wording of the job advert in quotation marks, so you can see if the exact same text appears on several sites, which may be an indication of a scam.
  • If a recruiter contacts you on social media or a messaging platform, be extra careful and verify their identity through other channels.
  • If something looks too good to be true, it usually is. Listen to your instincts and when in doubt, don't take any risks.
  • Use only reliable job sites, and be vigilant on them as well.
  • Use LinkedIn to connect with employees currently working for the company that wants to hire you. A short conversation can confirm whether a job advert is real and give you valuable insights into the company culture and working environment.
  • Watch out for the following red flags:
  • You are asked to click on a link, share personal data (particularly early on in the process), provide bank or card details, download or install a program or file, pay for a training course, and so on.
  • You get the job without an interview.
  • You get a high salary straight away and don't have to negotiate your salary.
  • The job requirements are limited and you don't need any experience.
  • You receive emails from Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or other generic email addresses.
  • Protect your digital identity. Make sure your antivirus software is up to date and you use strong, unique passwords for different accounts. Consider setting up two-factor authentication wherever possible to secure your accounts further.
  • Also follow these tips to protect yourself from other types of fraud.

This article does not contain any investment advice or recommendation, nor a financial analysis. Nothing in this article may be construed as information with a contractual value of any sort whatsoever. This article is intended for information only and does not constitute in any way a commercialization of financial products. Keytrade Bank cannot be held liable for any decision made based on the information contained in this article, nor for its use by third parties. Every investment entails risks such as a possible loss of capital. Before investing in financial instruments, please inform yourself properly and read carefully the document "Overview of the principal characteristics and risks of financial instruments" that you can find in the Document centre.

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