Victims of WhatsApp IT recruitment scam ‘now coming forward every day’

A charity that contractors are encouraged to notify if they receive WhatsApp messages from fake recruiters has revealed it is now hearing from victims every day.

JobsAware, a non-profit group against labour market abuse, said that although it is working with police, it is “receiving reports daily” of the “growing problem” with the messenger app.

But potentially thwarting detection efforts, the targets of the recruiter impersonation fraud are “broad,” and “crossing multiple sectors,” JobsAware’s chair Keith Rosser told ContractorUK.

'Not just annualised salaries on WhatsApp job scam messages'

Rosser added that rather just targeting one candidate-type, the scam is “aiming across” the pay spectrum “including not just annualised salaries, but hourly rates” too, to lure contractors.

Indeed, under Monday’s story of agencies like Hays and Randstad being impersonated to fool candidates into handing over their details, a ContractorUK reader confessed on LinkedIn:

“I got data-harvested several years ago. [It was] quite sophisticated [as they] spoofed the company email…[and] letter heads. I got drawn quite far in before realising”.


But another reader James Hilliam, director of IT services at AllPoints Fibre, believes that for techies who put themselves out on the open market, it almost comes with the territory.

“When you put your phone number on your CV, and upload it to job websites, you have to expect that to be essentially public information -- that scammers will access. But you have to put your number on your CV so that you receive calls back!

“I don't think you can prevent receiving the [approaches on WhatsApp]," Hilliam wrote. "But handling it appropriately is important.”

The first step to handling it appropriately is to not think the agent wil be offended if you take time to verify the opportunity (which often is 'too good to be true' if it’s a scam), is real.  

'Scammers create a sense of urgency'

This includes checking the ‘agent’ is “who they say they are,” says Reed, the staffing giant, which contacted ContractorUK yesterday after it too was named as being impersonated.

“Scammers will employ tactics to create a sense of urgency, using statements such as ‘this opportunity won’t last long’, to pressure you into making a quick decision.”

Reed continued: “If something feels amiss, always pause, research and evaluate any job offer carefully before moving forward.”

'Legitimate employers don't...'

According to the staffing giant, legitimate employers typically don’t contact job-seekers via WhatsApp or the like, “without some form of prior communication.”

Similarly, legitimate employers “won’t ask candidates to foot the bill,” by requesting upfront fees for background checks, training or other pre-employment processes.

JobsAware’s Mr Rosser, a director at Reed Screening told ContractorUK: “This [impersonation fraud via WhatsApp and other platforms] is a huge issue on a global scale that is particularly impacting the UK; impacting our legitimate companies, our job-seekers and our contractors.

“Nearly every sizeable recruitment agency and job board have had its brand used by fraudsters to help convince the public the fake job is real. Purely on coverage alone, job scams is currently the largest issue impacting workers and work-seekers in the UK.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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