March 1

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How To Spot A Job Scam


The jobs market is a difficult one to navigate at the moment. It hasn’t quite returned to normal after the disaster that was 2020. Businesses have closed down, and many of them are yet to be replaced. Thousands of people – millions, if we’re talking about the whole world – are out of work. When an exciting opening is posted, the company that publishes it can expect to be deluged by applicants. That’s not always good news for the company, and it can be even worse for the applicant – especially if the job they’re applying for doesn’t really exist. 

The idea of a “job scam” would have been absurd in a pre-digital economy. It was impossible to fake the existence of a job back then because businesses had offices, and money was paid in cash. Now everyone works from home and people are paid by bank transfer it’s all a little bit harder to work out. A business that doesn’t have an office isn’t necessarily a scam business, but it’s more likely to be. A company that asks you to work from home full time isn’t necessarily scamming you, but it merits more investigation than one that doesn’t. 

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The reason we’re telling you this is that web designers and graphic designers might be more likely to be sucked into a job scam than any other group of professionals. We saw that with the Madbird scandal, which saw dozens of creatives and designers working unpaid for six months and getting into debt in the process while they waited for a payment that was never going to come. Life’s hard enough as it is as a freelance designer without people exploiting your skills for nothing, so here are the signs to look out for if you want to avoid working for the next Madbird.  

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The Pay Is Vastly Disproportionate To The Position

This is a favourite trick used by scammers. We all have a clear idea in our heads of what our dream job looks like. If you’re a web designer or a graphic designer, you’re probably working in something close to your dream job already – all that’s missing is the bumper pay deal you’ve always wanted. Then, one day, someone posts a job vacancy. It’s a role doing precisely what you do right now but for double the salary or more. This Is Money investigated job scams back in 2020, and the promise of an inflated wage was at the core of almost all of them. As tempting as an offer might appear, you know the going rate for your job within the industry and within the context of society as a whole. If the money on offer sounds like far too much for the position being described, something’s probably wrong. 

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You Were Headhunted

Headhunting is a thing that happens at executive levels within top corporate firms. It’s not something that happens to the average web designer or graphic designer. We’ve all had spam emails or cold approaches from recruitment agencies on LinkedIn before, but there’s a difference between those generic approaches and someone addressing you directly. If someone pops into your inbox one day promising you a job that you never asked for, look at them very carefully. When was their profile created? Who do they work for? Who have they worked for in the past? Can they be traced on social media, or can their identity be verified any other way? If their profile looks suspicious, it’s likely to be because there’s something suspicious about them. 

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There Aren’t Any Reviews or Links

The internet has been around for such a long time now that naivety isn’t a valid excuse to get scammed anymore. Look what’s happened to the casino sector as an example. There used to be hundreds of fly-by-night casino sister sites that would take your money and give you nothing, but since sistersite.co.uk and sites like it came along, it’s been a lot harder to scam people. If you have doubts about the legitimacy of a casino, you should read casino sister site reviews until you’re either happy to spend your money there or you’ve been convinced that things aren’t above board. You should apply the same logic to potentially fraudulent job offers. If reviews of the company are bad – or, even worse, there are no reviews of the company anywhere on the internet at all – something is fishy. If you can’t even find a reference to the company anywhere on the net or any social media presence, it’s a sure sign you shouldn’t engage with whoever’s trying to recruit you. 

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The Job Description Is Vague

Nobody can do a job if they don’t know what they’re doing at that job. Giving you a salary and a list of expected working hours and shift patterns doesn’t constitute a job spec. Who are you expected to report to? What are your daily duties? What experience are you supposed to have in order to qualify for the role? Can you picture yourself doing the job after reading the job description? Vague descriptions have long been a tell-tale sign that someone might be trying to sell you on a pyramid scheme, but these days it’s just as likely to be a sign of a job scam. You wouldn’t want to be involved in either of those things, so cut off contact either way. Even if the job did turn out to be genuine, would you want to work for a company that can’t even explain what it wants you to do? 

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You’re Asked To Pay For Something

You might be wondering what the point of a job scam is. Usually, it’s either one of two things or both. The first reason people pull job scams is to extract free labour from people until they realise they’ve been scammed and they’re never going to get paid. The second is to get money upfront from people and then pull the rug out from underneath them. When money is asked for upfront, a vaguely plausible excuse is usually offered. You need to pay for training materials or a training course, for example. You have to cover the costs of background checks, or you need to purchase specialist equipment or software. However plausible this is made to sound, it’s wrong. An employer who wants you to pay for something before you start working for them is not a legitimate employer. If they can’t pay your essential costs when they hire you, how are they ever going to pay you a salary? 

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It can be crushing to receive what you believe to be an ideal job offer only to have to pass on it because things don’t add up, but it’s a lot better than being suckered in and leaving a good job for one that doesn’t exist in reality. Apply your common sense, check everything three times, and don’t be afraid to say no if something’s wrong. Contrary to popular wisdom, a bad job isn’t better than no job at all. Keep on searching, and you’ll eventually find the right employer. 

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