School leavers and graduates are the most likely people to be defrauded while job-seeking – 23 year olds are the peak age for being scammed.
Police figures across the UK show that those aged 18-25 are the highest risk category for con-artists making money out of young people looking for jobs online.
On average victims lose £4,000, although one person reported losing £195,000. One in four people scammed suffered a "significant negative impact" on their health or financial well-being as a result.
The crimes vary from direct financial scams to misleading job descriptions, and tricksters tend to approach victims by email (35 per cent), websites (22 per cent) and phone (18 per cent).
According to the City of London Police's National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), more than half of all defrauded job seekers are based in London. The perpetrators are also most likely to be in the capital – the police suspect that 71 per cent of them are based in London, followed by Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.
Tony Neate, chief executive of a new initiative called Get Safe Online, said the challenge of getting a job in the current economic environment had exacerbated the problem.
“Unfortunately, these are exactly the conditions that scammers like to operate in,” he said.
“Given the emotional distress that can accompany a graduate job-hunt, and the fact that this demographic is likely to have very little financial security, these figures are a great concern.
The police has issued a seven point plan to avoid potential fraudsters
1. Never part with money – employers should pay you, not the other way round. If asked to pay for security checks, visas, training, or anything else, you should research the job, the company, and never use any associated company suggested to you without conducting independent thorough research.
2. Never take it on face value – have you received an ‘out of the blue’, ‘too good to be true’ job offer? Be sceptical and ask questions. Why and how have you been contacted, what is the job, did you apply? Be wary of any non-business, generic email address (such as hotmail and yahoo), poorly written job adverts or job descriptions, and emails or contact at unusual times of the day (unless pre-arranged).
3. Never do everything online – while technology is a great enabler to help people find work, at some point your job discussion should lead to an interview or a meeting. Hiring agents who keep the relationship solely to email must be treated extremely cautiously.
4.Never fail to do research – find out about the company that the job is with and do your research! Check landline telephone numbers and call the end employer to check the job exists. Use social media and sources such as Companies House and LinkedIn to dig deeper into the organisations and people you are interacting with.
5. Never phone them for an interview – premium rate phone scams are common. This is where an individual calls a pay-for number thinking it’s an interview, when actually they are paying for every minute they stay on hold. If an employer wants you to work for them, they will call you.
6.Never accept money for nothing – with money mule scams on the increase, beware of any employer promising ‘get rich quick’ or ‘earn thousands working from home’. When cheques begin arriving it is easy to be fooled into being used as a money mule.
7. Never provide personal details – be suspicious of any requests for personal data ahead of an interview or registration meeting (if an agency). Until you have the job, keep bank details safe and only provide identity details once you have met face to face.