With unemployment still high, scammers are having a productive time taking advantage of desperate job seekers.
You don't have to be an economics guru to know jobs, even of the minimum wage variety, are hard to find – especially if you are young.
According to the latest unemployment figures there are now 958,000 people aged 16-24 out of work.
But if you are in the scam game, then the desperation of those out of work is a golden opportunity. Phoney employment offers are big business – it's easy to convince an unemployed person to part with cash when you promise well paid work.
Citizens Advice knows of 22,000 job scams that have taken place over the past year. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Many more are unreported because the chances of getting your money back are so low, while there are also all of the scam attempts that are ignored because the job-hunter does not fall for the bait.
One scam targets those looking for employment on free advertisement websites. They search for "marketing assistant" or "finance officer" and are pleasantly surprised when jobs are found, all offering top rates of pay. In some cases this will be £5,000 to £10,000 a year more than they expect.
How the scam works
Out of work people apply with their CV. A day or so later, they get a response saying that they are a leading candidate for the position and are given a telephone number to ring. This will almost certainly be a mobile phone number.
It sounds good. Only there's a snag. The scamster says the applicant is in a very good place but just needs to polish the CV. And to do that, they need to pay £99. Of course, the job-hunter is not told what is wrong with the CV.
Scam employment firms will push this further by asking personal questions, such as the applicant's experience of job interviews. It does not matter what the answer is, the scam merchant goes on to "strongly suggest" taking an online educational course to improve their face-to-face technique.
It will cover everything, they are told, including what to wear, how to talk and even how to avoid negative body signals. And it only costs a further £399 or so.
It is made clear that the application for this really good job cannot proceed without the CV rewrite and the training.
Taking advantage of the desperate
Why do people fall for this? Obviously, the need to get a job - especially a well paid one - is top of the list. But the work offers appear to come from genuine employment agencies. Often the fraudsters will clone a real site so it has all the appearance of a well-known legitimate site, but change the internet address, perhaps by adding uk to the name or switching a '.co.uk' into a '.net'.
And some are very cheeky. The small print disclaims just about everything, with clauses such as: "We are not an employment agency, employer, or resourcing agency. We do not procure, get, gain or retain jobs, employment, and interviews for our clients. We do not represent clients or guarantee any amount of income, employment for the use of this site."
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Turning hundreds into thousands
This scam could cost hundreds. But why stop there? There's an even better employment con which typically brings in around £4,000 from each victim. And that's by offering the course that leads to a great job.
It's no secret that there are skills shortages in plumbing (including central heating and air conditioning) and information technology (both software and hardware). These jobs pay well and enjoy a large degree of security.
So why not offer a course that leads to a recognised qualification in these or other skills?
Teaching these qualifications is not easy or cheap. You need instructors, premises and often expensive machinery for practical learning experience.
Or at least it's normally like that. What scam merchants do is to set up 'at home learning' courses which – and this sounds good - "allow you to progress at your own pace to gain a nationally recognised qualification". All this costs is £3,995 (plus sometimes a £200 registration fee).
Most people looking for work will not have that sort of money at hand. No problem! There are many lenders from high street banks to fringe firms who will offer this cash as an educational loan.
So the victims commit themselves to paying the cash, plus interest, over two to three years.
What do they get in return? The first instalment of the home study course arrives and it's badly photocopied pages from a do-it-yourself manual, all of which is very easy to find elsewhere and much cheaper. The instruction is to complete this within three months and send it off for marking.
You do this once or twice, but you never hear again from the so-called educational company. It evaporates like mist at dawn on a summer's day. It's a ghost company, the address is a mailbox while any directors are either the office girl or boy or a false name.
You've lost four grand. They've run off with the money. Eventually, the learning company ends up in liquidation, but by then it's all too late.
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