Scammers target jobseekers on recruitment websites

Jobseekers are being warned about an increase in the number of employment scams, with criminals targeting legitimate recruitment websites to steal identities and money.

Western Australia's consumer protection agency has linked the trend to the economic downturn, describing the increase in people searching for work on the internet as a "perfect storm" for scams.

Brandon Nunn, 21, had his identity stolen after responding to what he believed was a legitimate advertisement for a diesel mechanic apprenticeship with mining giant Rio Tinto.

The Victoria Park man applied through job vacancy website Seek.

The email response and application form were convincing enough for him to send through a copy of his passport, driver's licence, tax file number and forklift ticket.

When he heard nothing back, he rang Rio Tinto, only to find out the advert was a scam.

"I just felt a pit in my stomach. Like, who's got my information?" Mr Nunn said.

"Everyone applied for that job, thinking it was a job of dreams. It turns out to be nothing apart from being stitched up."

While there has been no fallout yet, a national support group said the information Mr Nunn provided was enough for scammers to do everything from obtaining a loan to buying retail products on credit.

Most employment scams happen via mobile phone, email and free websites, but the deputy chairwoman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Delia Rickard, said scammers were continually changing their techniques.

"It's a trend that we are starting to see scammers placing job ads on legitimate sites like Seek," she said.

"You apply for the job and there's no job there."


Rare for suspicious ads to go undetected, agency claims

Seek is Australia's biggest online recruitment site with 140,000 job ads a month and about 2.8 million visitors.

The company said every advertisement was assessed through an automated system and there was also "manual spot checks" of ads by a dedicated security team.

Spokeswoman Kendra Banks said it was extremely rare for a suspicious ad not to be picked up.

"Our top priority is to make sure that our candidates' personal information is as secure as it possibly can be," she said.

"We are always investing to stay ahead of the game so we're really paranoid about the sophistication of some of these hackers and the tactics and techniques that fraudsters will attempt to use."

Statistics show employment scams of various kinds are increasing.


Number of 'money mules' also on the rise in WA

In Western Australia, ScamNet received 48 reports of employment scams in 2015/2016 compared to 32 in 2014/2015.

Nationally, the money being lost to employment scams has also increased. So far this year $745,067 has been lost to the scams, compared to $952,742 for the whole of 2015.

WA's acting commissioner for consumer protection, David Hilliard, cites the case of a group of overseas backpackers which was left stranded in Perth's city centre after applying on Gumtree for grape-picking jobs at a vineyard.

"These people had to pay for their transport, their accommodation upfront. They did that by bank transfer and were told to be at a hotel for a bus pick up at 7.00 on a Sunday morning and 14, 15 people turned up," he said.

"No bus, no job opportunity, it was just a rip off."

The number of West Australians being recruited as money mules has also increased and the amount of money being laundered has more than doubled in the past year to $759,400 in 2015-16.

Ms Rickard said there was an onus on companies running employment sites to police their content but public education was the key.

"First of all, never send money or electronic goods on behalf of somebody else. That's not a way to earn an income. It's a way to land yourself in prison," she said.

"Secondly, don't fall for any of these work-from-home opportunities were you have to pay money up front to get goods. Again, that's almost inevitably a scam."

Mr Nunn has learnt the hard way.

"It was definitely a learning curve," he said.

"People are getting extremely smart with how they can take your identity away from you."

Rio Tinto said it took immediate action to remove the apprenticeship advertisement from Seek and Gumtree when it became aware of the problem.

The company said it also added a dedicated page to its website warning jobseekers about recruitment scams.

ABC Australia