What employment scams look like and how they work.
You're promised a job or business opportunity that sounds right up your street.
It looks like your dream job – very well paid and just a few hours a week.
The job is a sham. You end up out of pocket, or earning virtually nothing. You may even break the law.
How employment scams work
You see an ad in a spam email, on a website banner, or even on a poster in the street, or on a community notice board. It's for just the kind of work you’ve been looking for:
- working from home
- good rate of pay
- not much work.
Most of these ads are not real job offers. Many of them are fronts or gateways for scams such as:
- pyramid schemes
- or upfront-payment fraud.
Types of employment scam
You answer an ad to be a mystery shopper. You’re asked to test a money wiring service such as Western Union, and to report back on the experience. What you don’t realise is that you’re helping your employer to launder money. This is illegal. You could be charged for being a money mule.
You’re asked to handle payments on behalf of an overseas company. You’ll get a fee for every payment you handle. Little do you know that the money is a front for illegal activities. Without realising, you become a money mule and – again − you could be prosecuted.
Guaranteed employment/income scams
You’re guaranteed a certain level of income or employment. To get it you have to buy something like a business plan, start-up materials or software. You may also be asked to pay money to be put on a directory to 'guarantee' you jobs. The only guarantee is that you’ll lose your money.
People selling through a multi-level marketing scheme get commission on the sales of those they recruit, as well as on their own sales. Some multi-level marketing schemes, like selling Tupperware, are legitimate business models.
But some multi-level marketing schemes are pyramid schemes in disguise. The products are of poor quality, overpriced and hard to sell. Or you may be asked to spend a great deal of money on training materials that are completely useless.
Click here for more information on pyramid schemes.
Scammers pose as recruitment agencies, hosting recruitment seminars. They tell you about a ‘great opportunity’, often overseas. At the seminar you’ll be asked for upfront fees – perhaps to edit your CV, for administration costs, or for a work permit or visa. Once you’ve handed over the cash, the ‘agent’ usually disappears.
A prospective employer overseas says that they’ll handle your work visa application. But you have to send them the money to process it. Your visa never arrives, and your ‘prospective employer’ disappears.
Protect yourself from employment scams
- Look for employment through well-known recruitment websites or reputable recruitment agencies.
- Be suspicious of online ads promoting the opportunity to work at home – many of them are scams.
- Check out any company that offers you employment or a business opportunity. Don’t be taken in by wild claims or glowing testimonials – they may not be real. Type the company name plus ‘scam’ into an internet search engine. You may find reports from people who have been targeted by the same scam.
- Ignore unsolicited emails. It’s best to delete them without opening them. If you do open them, avoid clicking on any links, even ones that say 'unsubscribe' – they may launch spyware or viruses on your computer.
- Check out any job offer carefully, especially if it’s overseas. Enquire about visa costs and processes from the relevant visa authority. Never send money overseas – especially via a money wiring service such as Western Union – unless you completely know and trust the person or organisation.
- Contact your bank if you have received money into your bank account that you believe to be illegal. If you have any problems contact the Banking Ombudsman for guidance.
Help protect others from scams
If you've been affected by an employment scam, help us to warn others by reporting your story to Scamwatch. Your personal details will be treated in the strictest confidence.