Think you’ve found your dream job? Make sure it doesn’t turn into a nightmare, says Vicky Shaw

It’s that time of year again when soon-to-be school leavers and university graduates are busy preparing to take the first step on the career ladder.

But as the mammoth job hunt gets under way, it’s also a time when young people can be in particular danger of falling prey to scams in their eagerness to get on the career path.

Get Safe Online, a joint initiative involving various bodies including the Government, the National Crime Agency and Ofcom, is urging people to take precautions to make sure that what looks like their dream job doesn’t turn out to be a financial nightmare.

Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online, says: “The process of finding work in such a crowded environment can be frustrating and, for many, an element of desperation will set in.

“Unfortunately, these are exactly the conditions that scammers like to operate in.”

The job-seekers most likely to get defrauded are aged between 18 and 25 years old, according to figures from the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau showing actual reported crimes across UK police forces.

On average, a victim will lose around £4,000 as a result of such a scam. Although scams that aim to defraud someone out of £100 tend to be the most successful, one victim reported losing £195,000.

So how do these scams work – and how can you stop yourself falling victim to one?

Well, to commit a scam, the fraudster is banking on the job hunter failing to thoroughly check out who they are really dealing with. Scams can range from direct financial frauds to misleading job descriptions. The most common channels which scammers use to approach their victims are via email, websites and also by phone.

Here are some steps which job hunters can take to avoid scams:

1. Don’t part with money.
Employers should pay you, not the other way around. If you are asked to pay for security checks, visas or anything else, make sure you conduct thorough, independent research into the company.

2. Never take it on face value.
A “too good to be true” job offer out of the blue may well be just that. Ask why you were contacted, what is the job, and did you apply? Be wary of generic email addresses, poorly-written job adverts or job descriptions and emails asking you to make contact at unusual times of the day.

3. Don’t do everything online.
While technology is a great tool to help you find work, at some point you would expect to have an interview or a meeting. Hiring agents who keep the relationship solely on email should generally be treated with caution.

4. Do your research about the company.
It’s worth doing this anyway if you want to impress at an interview. Use social media and other sources to dig deeper into the organisation.

5. Don’t phone them for an interview.
Premium rate phone scams are common. These happen when someone thinks they are phoning for an interview but they are actually paying for every minute they are kept on hold.

6. Don’t accept money for nothing.
“Money mule” scams are on the increase, so beware of any employer offering the promise to “get rich quick”.

7. Don’t provide personal details until you’re sure who you are dealing with.
Be suspicious of any requests for personal information ahead of an interview. Until you have the job, keep your bank details to yourself and only provide identity details once you are happy who you’re dealing with.

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