Date: 06/02180 | Duration: 00:11:04

In the second part of our cyber security double-bill, we take a closer look at an area of increasing concern: recruitment fraud. Between September 2015 and September 2016 over 1200 instances of recruitment scams were identified as costing victims an estimated £500,000. With individuals losing out, and organisations and the recruitment industry facing increasing reputational damage, we discuss the factors contributing to the rise in these cases.

In this episode we hear from experts from SaferJobs, Cifas and CIPD on what to look out for and the steps businesses and HR professionals can take to protect themselves and others against recruitment fraud.

Lee D’Arcy: Fraud is on the increase we know from our numbers. If you talk to the Office of National Statistics and the police they’re all saying fraud is a major issue and it’s so much easier now for people to commit a crime in their bedroom with their laptop than it is to actually do it physically with all the CCTV cameras that are around. In the old days people would put a stocking over their head, wouldn’t they, and go into a shop with a cucumber in a plastic bag. Now they just stay in their bedroom, get their laptop out and pretend to be someone else.

Philippa Lamb: Remember Lee D’Arcy from Cifas? We talked to him for our first podcast about cyber risk back in December. Today we’re bringing you part two, and while people often do talk about this sort of risk as an IT issue, as you'll hear it’s very much about people. 96% of cyber security breaches are down to humans, not tech and it’s happening everywhere. Here’s another voice from last time, Keith Rosser from Safer Jobs.

Keith Rosser: Eastern Europe, Asia, all over the world, certainly in parts of Africa too we’ve found that actually fraudsters can set up with a computer and operate anywhere globally and facilitate fraud in the UK.

PL: For this episode we’re looking specifically at recruitment and the fraud risks facing jobseekers and recruiters. In 2016 there was a sixfold increase in the number of reported recruitment frauds against the previous year. Why such a huge increase? Well that's because recruitment has gone online.

KR: It is much more tech related. In fact we see much more online applications and online transactions that are fraudulent. It’s just so easy now. The internet has enabled so much more opportunities, if you like, to commit crime. The biggest thing that we see is identity theft and identity crime.

PL: And the latest numbers around this are really shocking, one in ten of all jobseekers said they'd come across this sort of thing and nearly half of them suffered financial loss.

KR: We get jobseekers who are duped into giving away personal details online because they think they’ve got a job offer. We get people who get duped into premium rate phone scams for what they think is an interview and of course it isn’t.

Warren Howlett: The folks who are targeting these fraudulent job adverts will be focusing on folks who perhaps have less access to information or knowledge about the recruiting space and they’ll be encouraged to apply for a job from a well-known brand and all of a sudden someone who’s purporting to be from that organisation is asking them for some money.

KR: So are told by what they think is a legitimate organisation that you need to pay money for training or a police check prior to starting the job.

WH: For a visa or asking them to pay for a work permit.

KR: But of course there is no training or police check and there is no job. We had a lady recently who was about to leave Italy to move to the UK for her dream job literally had organised her full relocation, found out the day before the move that it was a scam, lost the money, had already given up her home in Italy and had to…

PL: You get the picture, these scams have really disastrous consequences for jobseekers and of course they’re damaging for recruiters too. The voices you heard there were Keith Rosser, from earlier on, and the CIPD’s head of HR content, Warren Howlett. Keith chairs Safer Jobs, it’s a non-profit created by the Metropolitan Police to raise awareness and combat crime in the job seeking and recruitment arena. So as we’ve heard there are recruitment scams around entirely fake jobs, but there are also criminals who create real jobs with the sole intention of stealing money.

KR: We get lots of boiler rooms, and boiler rooms are criminal networks where they set up, I guess, cold-calling sales operations and they trick people into working in them and when the people start and they think they’re going into a sales role they find that perhaps the accommodation or the costs they're incurring are greater than the salary and to pay for it they have to hit targets and then they find themselves stuck. Generally [what] boiler rooms do is they target vulnerable people to release savings for investments that aren’t real and we saw just this year two very large, well known, job boards had boiler room organised gangs on them that duped over 4,000 people into applying for boiler rooms in the UK and abroad.

PL: I think this is a fascinating subject because when I started researching it for the purpose of this podcast I have to admit I knew very little about it. I’d heard very little about this sort of recruitment fraud until this year. Has it really ramped up or have I just been behind the curve?

KR: It really has ramped up. So it’s very big in the United States and what we've seen is a move away from the United States into other parts of the world and particularly into the UK market. So in the last two years we’ve seen a 300% rise in reports, people being affected by a fake job and technology as a great enabler is also a great facilitator for these kind of operations so there's more people looking for work online but also the fraudsters are becoming so much more clever about what they’re doing. So it used to be a year or two ago that a jobseeker would have to apply to an advert and they would get then hooked in but actually what happens now is the fraudsters are actually targeting jobseekers and moulding the fake job to the jobseeker and contacting them on things like social networking sites and saying, “I see you’re a HR manager and actually we’re looking for a HR director, you fit the bill, you look just the right person,” and they persuade the person into the scam and actually directly target them and actually that's a new method we’ve seen over the last six months.

PL: And that's for the purposes of identity theft?

KR: It could be identity theft. We had a gentleman recently who had a genuine job, resigned from his genuine job thinking he'd got a new job, gave his personal details to the employer, found out there was no job and is now unemployed, then found out that a car had been bought on finance under his name, two companies had been set up under his name.

PL: And it’s really horrifying isn’t it? And I've seen figures suggesting that one in ten jobseekers have been affected by that. It’s a huge number, and nearly half of them apparently had financial loss.

KR: Yeah. And I think where this is so sad is that so often these scams are targeting the most vulnerable people. So they’re targeting people that may have been out of work for six months. We had a case recently of a person who had not been in work for about three to six months, living in London, had a family, two small children so struggling to make ends meet, finally got offered the job they thought was their way out of this. However the job required them to pay for up front training and up front checks, so the person borrowed money from family members to be able to pay to be able to start his job. Of course, then found out there was no job. So not only was still unemployed but had borrowed money from family members just to start the job. So you can imagine the sort of situation that leaves people in.

PL: These are terrible stories and if you’re thinking that none of this could really affect you or your organisation well listen to this from Warren.

WH: The number of organisations that have been negatively affected is also staggering. So you've got big household names, and they’re the typical targets of fraudsters because they’re looking to use a name that will attract the attention of a candidate. They go to the full extent of having email addresses that will look like the organisation, they’ll have folks that are calling purporting to be from the organisation, actually undertaking an interview with the candidate. So all the way through to the candidate actually receiving paperwork and thinking that they’ve got the job until they turn up for day one and it doesn’t exist.

KR: We have a range of sectors, a range of sectors and a range of well-run organisations who even have people turning up on a Monday morning thinking they’re starting their new job and the organisation has to turn them around and say there is no work and there's a real brand reputational problem there for organisations.

PL: And these are sophisticated scams aren’t they complete with very convincing websites? It’s not the sort of thing that even a well-informed person would immediately spot.

KR: They're cloning websites, they’re using company email addresses with perhaps one slight variation in the formula so it’s really hard to spot. The emails look and feel right. We’ve seen job application or job offer letters genuinely branded by the organisation. We’ve seen many cases where, and this is really important for your audience, the HR manager or director who is on the email or in the job offer letter is actually the genuine HR manager.

PL: So even if you check it looks legitimate.

KR: It’s the fraudster’s found out who the HR manager is at XYZ company and has used their actual details.

PL: And I've seen a number of organisations have now got chunks on their website explicitly aimed at people who might be considering going for a job there talking about how they recruit and warning people about scams. I know I've seen one from Total, they’re by no means the only one are they?

KR: Yeah that's right, hotels, oil and gas, retail, they seem to really suffer from this.

PL: So how can you guard against recruitment fraud/ as a job hunter you can start by educating yourself about the most common scams. Obviously look for iffy spelling or grammar in any documents or emails from addresses not linked to the company they’re purportedly hiring for. And always tell long distance, potential employers you'll make your own travel and accommodation arrangements if they try to charge you. And for employers? Well there's the Safer Jobs initiative where Keith Rosser is chair.

KR: But also we work with recruitment companies and job board so that a HR department, to ensure their supply chain is compliant, can work with recruiters and job boards that are partners of Safer Jobs. So we’re looking at that total transparency across the supply chain and making sure that ultimately every jobseeker knows there's somewhere they can go to get free help and advice.

PL: This sounds great. How do people get on board with this?

KR: It’s really easy. For a HR professional in an organisation literally just have to contact us online via the website. All they have to commit to doing is putting our logo and text on their site so it’s a message to jobseekers. We’ll add them to our site as ‘these people are safe employers’, and what we will do in return for those organisations is any jobs online under their name which aren’t legitimate they can report to us and we’ll get them taken down. If I were to tell you that in 2015 we would have had about 700 people come to our website a month, currently we easily see 50,000 a month. So you can see how much it’s grown in that time.

PL: Food for thought. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back at the same time next month.