DWP investigates allegations of 11,000 fake jobs on government website

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is investigating allegations made by Channel 4 News that a Coventry recruiter posted 11,000 bogus job vacancies on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website.
Mon, 24 Feb 2014 The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is investigating allegations made by Channel 4 News that a Coventry recruiter posted 11,000 bogus job vacancies on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website.

Following the report broadcast earlier this month, the DWP suspended Coventry recruiter Mark Coward from using his Universal Jobmatch account, and removed an unspecified number of his vacancies from the site. Coward denies any wrongdoing.

According to the DWP, this is the second time Coward has been suspended from posting vacancies on the Universal Jobmatch site. A DWP spokesperson says the first suspension followed a customer complaint. However, after giving the DWP “satisfactory assurances” that the ads were for real jobs with legitimate employers, Coward had been allowed to resume posting vacancies, according to the spokesperson.

The DWP says that since Universal Jobmatch was launched in November 2012, its checks have led to the removal of nearly 3,000 bogus vacancies created overall through more than 500 accounts. [The 3,000 vacancies do not include any of the recent allegedly bogus vacancies connected to Coward.]  

The DWP tells Recruiter that a number of these cases have led to criminal prosecutions, though a spokesperson was unable to provide further details on this. DWP was also unable to say precisely how many of Coward’s job postings it removed.
The Channel 4 News report claimed that “one in 50 of all jobs” posted on the Universal Jobmatch site were posted via nine online recruitment platforms and companies linked with Mark Coward. The report did not establish a timeframe for the job postings.

During its investigation, Channel 4 News says that it sought to establish the credibility of a number of adverts on the Universal Jobmatch site posted by two recruitment companies associated with Coward. However, after visiting two locations where jobs had been posted – one in Kent and the other in the Scottish Highlands – Channel 4 News says it was unable to find the jobs concerned.

However, Coward’s wife Dionne, a self-employed recruitment consultant who also works with her husband, tells Recruiter that none of the jobs were fake. “Categorically the jobs exist,” she says.

She adds that the reason it might appear that a job posted on the Universal Jobmatch site did not exist is because the same job is often posted in several different postcode locations. These postcodes are chosen so that they are within easy travelling distance of the job’s actual location. However, Dionne Coward says that in order to never identify clients they have a policy of not putting the client’s postcode in the Jobmatch advert.

Channel 4 News also alleged that Coward received “thousands of pounds for marketing job products at applicants”. The ads placed by Coward included an option to click through to the online candidate registration page of legitimate recruitment job board CV-Library. Every CV uploaded to the job board earned Coward a £1 referral fee from CV-Library, Channel 4 said. Offering referral, or affiliate, fees is a legal practice used by many job boards to encourage traffic to their sites.

Job board expert Stephen O’Donnell tells Recruiter that it is “very common” for job boards to buy traffic to their sites. “All the job boards buy traffic,” he says. This includes other leading job boards such as Totaljobs, Monster and Jobsite who “all buy traffic to a lesser or greater extent”.

“Job boards will either pay around 10p per click or between £1 and £3 per candidate registration,” O’Donnell says.

Lee Biggins, managing director of CV-Library, tells Recruiter that the situation both “incredibly shocked” and proved “hugely frustrating” for the job board. “As soon as this matter was brought to our attention, we terminated the … relationship [with Coward] with immediate effect,” Biggins says.

Further, he notes, following the Channel 4 News report: “CV-Library are currently in detailed talks with our legal team about the next steps of pursuing legal action against Mr Mark Coward.”

Biggins continues: “CV-Library’s relationship with the companies in question and Mark Coward is simply that Coward was given an external banner and URL to send direct traffic to us, much like a relationship you would have with any search engine or third-party advertising platform.”

He emphasises that Coward had “no access to any data of the individuals that registered”.

The Channel 4 News programme was broadcast on 7 February 2014.


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