Scammers targeting recruiters on the rise as impersonation fraud hits recruitment

With almost weekly reports on people being hit by digital and online scams, recruitment companies are not immune from this fraud.

In a survey this month, conducted by banking giant NatWest, three-quarters (74%) of people have been targeted by scams in the past year alone, and 80% of those surveyed are concerned that impersonation fraud may become harder to spot in the next five years due to the rise in AI (artificial intelligence).

Recruitment agencies are now being targeted by scammers posing as consultants from the company to try and con candidates out of money or parting with personal financial information.

Office support recruitment specialist Huntress has a pop-up scam alert that appears on its website: “It has come to our attention that there are individuals and organisations presenting themselves as Huntress employees, creating fake profiles using names and photos from our website and social media.”

It advises candidates who receive unsolicited contacts to contact the company directly and to not provide any personal details, bank details or payments.

Huntress’s operations director Henry Beck expanded on the issue: “I’d like to think we are a very diligent company – complying with all the laws and our various obligations (of which there are many!). However, we’ve become aware that our company’s brand is being used as bait in a phishing scam. 

“They are using a variety of different communication channels – email, text, WhatsApp – impersonating us (sometimes very, very convincingly) to obtain personal information from work seekers… luring them in with offers of remote work, high salaries etc. 

“We’re very sad and concerned that our brand is being used in this way. A brand’s image is so important.” 

IT recruiter Lucky Hunter also has a scam alert message, warning candidates the company is “being attacked by scammers” and reiterates that Lucky Hunter consultants never ask candidates for money, nor would they contact them through any messenger apps, including WhatsApp.

Tatiana Melnichuk, CEO and founder of Lucky Hunter, personally addressed the issue on her social media accounts. Fraudsters, posing as a company, were conning potential candidates into parting with their bank account details for salary transfers. The candidates were then leaving bad Google reviews about Lucky Hunter, tarnishing the company’s reputation.

She emphasised the company’s genuine commitment to ethical recruitment practices and its dedication to candidate safety: “We acknowledged the gravity of the situation and took steps to address the real and impactful reviews left on Google. We responded to each review professionally and empathetically, acknowledging the harm caused by scammers. We clarified our commitment to ethical recruitment and our ongoing efforts to ensure candidate safety.”

Recruiter contacted Keith Rosser, director of screening and group risk at Reed, and winner of the Impact Award at this year’s Recruiter Awards, to find out how prevalent this is among recruiters and jobseekers.

“This is big and global – $100m (£82m), 100,000 work seekers, across 50 countries. The WhatsApp/Telegram scam claiming to be a legitimate UK recruiter is huge, and part of a co-ordinated global attack, especially centring on the US, the UK, India and Singapore. There’s a new task force in law enforcement just starting (with JobsAware), so there’s plenty to come in this space.”

To be UK-recruiter specific, he continued: “JobsAware has seen over 100 recruiters being spoofed and literally dozens of reports a week. Given [that] what is reported is only the tip of the iceberg, we know from the data this must be big.”

So what can recruiters do about this to fix the problem? Like Huntress and Lucky Hunter, Rosser said, “recruiters should be putting advice and guidance out on their platforms now to advise work seekers. At the very least it makes the recruiter look like they are keen to protect their customers.” 

Lucky Hunter’s Melnichuk told Recruiter: “We are also working on creating an animated video guide for our clients and candidates to help them distinguish our official communication channels and maintain online safety. Currently, our designer is actively working on this project.

“True to our commitment to candidates’ welfare, Lucky Hunter continues to stand strong against scammers, ensuring a safe and trustworthy environment for both clients and jobseekers alike.”

Rosser also advised recruiters to look at JobsAware, which is part of a law enforcement and UK government taskforce to tackle the issue. So far, almost 500 UK recruiters promote JobsAware to their candidates, Rosser said, and more than half a million online job adverts a day display the JobsAware logo. 

Rosser continued: “Beyond publishing advice and guidance, recruiters should report this issue as it occurs to JobsAware, so this can be shared with law enforcement and government who are committing resource to attempt to educate and prevent to disrupt the issue.

“Organisations including JobsAware recently met with Ministers to discuss the harm this is causing to the UK’s reputation and labour market effectiveness. The more we can, as an industry, make that clear to government the better chance we have of disrupting this major issue.”

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