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Common types of scam job

Ring a premium rate number to apply for a job

Some scams encourage you to apply by phone, using a recruitment number which costs you more than a normal phone call and generates them income. Such scam adverts are often suspiciously well paid to encourage many people to ring, then keep you on hold for a long time. Examples of higher rate dialling codes are 0844, 0870, 0871, 0845, 09. Spot them by understanding what different dialling codes mean. Which Magazine has a great guide to premium numbers.

Be aware that these numbers are often legitimately used for business, but be wary if you are told you must ring one as the only way to apply to a company, especially if you are then placed in a hold queue.

Financial data processing jobs working from your own PC

If you receive details of a job requiring you to transfer money through your own bank account in return for payment, this is a classic 'money mule' scam. These jobs may be called 'Financial Agent/Manager' or similar. They will put money into your account then instruct you to transfer it quickly to a third party via Western Union or similar instant money transfer facility. However, the deposit in your account will be cancelled before it is fully paid, meaning you have given away thousands of pounds of your money. If you allow your bank account to be used in this way you will also be committing a crime by laundering money for serious criminals. Avoid at all costs!

Work from home - earn ££££

These often sound tempting with very convenient hours and the promise of big rewards. However the costs to you are often not obvious (printing, postage etc) and you could spend many hours working for no profit, or find that your work does not meet the organisation's 'quality standard'. Other schemes ask you to pay a fee for 'training materials' which turn out to be instructions on how to get other people to buy into the scheme and give their money to you. Before taking up such a job, ask lots of questions about the scheme, how you can expect to be paid and by whom.

Providing financial/personal data about yourself

Some organisations (e.g. government related) may require extensive information for background checks, some of which may be requested at application stage. However, as a general rule you should not provide information in a job application about your bank account, National Insurance number, passport or any similar financial/official identification. Employers do have to check that you have eligibility to work in the UK so may need to see your passport before they employ you, but be very wary if asked for this kind of information when you first apply.

Paying for something up front

Be cautious if you are asked to pay anything before you start work. With some work 'opportunities' you might be asked to pay a fee for membership of a database, to place your CV online, however these are not jobs as such but ways to find jobs. International work experience and volunteering schemes often charge a fee to arrange work visas, accommodation and other aspects of a programme but this is a legitimate part of their business.

If you are asked up front to pay for training, equipment or stock, or other things directly related to the work, there is a good chance it is a scam.

If you are asked to pay money for anything up front, read the small print and make sure you ask questions:

  • What is the fee for?
  • What do you get for your money?
  • What does it not cover?
  • Is there a guarantee of work or earnings?

Schemes where you have to recruit other people into your team to sell for you

(Often called 'trading schemes', 'direct selling', 'network marketing' or 'multi-level marketing'). These often rely on working from home and selling a product of some kind. However to achieve the rewards they promise requires an almost limitless supply of new recruits and usually such schemes collapse with the participants at the bottom of the pyramid making no money or even a loss.

Commission-only jobs and door to door selling

These are quite common and mean that you the company pays you nothing unless you make a sale, and you could spend many hours working for no reward. These jobs ignore the National Minimum Wage which guarantees you a minimum level of earnings for your work. If you are considering such a job try to understand whether there is a market for the product/service you are selling and how much work you really need to put in. Try to make an objective judgement about whether you have the resilience and sales ability to succeed in such a job.

Career opportunity - Have you ever wanted to be a writer/IT Professional/model/financially successful?

You will often be asked to pay for training, coaching or information materials with the suggestion of a wonderful career after. These schemes promise a great deal but often deliver little, typically with no contractual promise of work or earnings at the end.

'Run your own business - we show you how'

In some types of work it is common to be self employed or work 'freelance', e.g. photographer, journalist, model, translator/interpreter. However, be cautious of any 'be your own boss' jobs where you have to set up your own business in order to take up the work you are being offered. You will take all the financial risks with no guarantee of income, you may even end up in a loss if you buy stock or invest money. If you are genuinely interested in self employment, the Careers Service can provide information and refer you to reliable sources of advice.