Recruitment Scams and Tips to Avoid Them

Here are some common recruitment scams encountered by students and graduates and some tips to avoid them:

Recruitment scams:

1. Becoming a ‘Money Mule’ :

Students and graduates are often targeted via unsolicited emails (see example of an email): or adverts on recruitment sites for “money transfer agents” or “payment processing agents”. Although this work often appeals to students looking for easy ways to make money, the ‘work’ actually involves letting criminals using your bank account for money laundering purposes (to process the proceeds of crime). Money laundering is illegal in the UK and involvement can lead to prison sentences of up to up to 10 years.

2. Schemes where you get paid for recruiting others:

Again, because students and recent graduates are often so keen to work, they are targeted by schemes which at first glance appear to involve selling products of some kind, but where rewards are actually based on recruiting large numbers of new recruits into the scheme each month (each new recruit usually pays a fee). New recruits are often offered incentives such as cars, holidays, bonuses and ‘promotion’ to recruit large numbers of other new recruits. Unfortunately the unrealistic targets and the need to recruit huge numbers of new recruits for these schemes to survive often leads to no financial reward for members.

3. Unpaid work trials/Commission-only sales roles

Although not actually a ‘scam’ as such (many sales roles are commission-only), recent graduates have told us the recruitment process and subsequent roles were very different than they expected and that they felt pressured into continuing with the process once at the interview, because they were so keen to work.

The recruitment process for some roles involves spotting a ‘marketing’ or ‘sales’ vacancy (often requiring no previous experience). The applicant rings the employer and is quickly invited for interview. On attending the interview, they are swiftly informed that they have passed the first stage of the interview and invited to a further interview early the next day.

This second interview then often involves signing paperwork, then spending the rest of the day with an experienced member of staff doing unpaid door-to-door sales. If successful, applicants are then offered commission-only door-to-door sales work.

See for one post graduate student’s experience

4. Recruitment agencies who charge for services

We have seen some examples where recruitment agencies target recent graduates and offer various services for a fee, for example CV writing, production of videos or extra training. Genuine recruitment agencies usually don’t charge for their services and it’s worth remembering that University of Chester graduates can use our services for free for up to 3 years following graduation. We also offer the Graduate Headstart programme – again this is completely free.

Tips to avoid recruitment scams:

· Be wary when receiving calls about jobs you don’t remember applying for- say you’ll ring them back if in doubt (genuine companies won’t mind), then search online to check the company name and address: searching The Companies House database might be useful here.

· Clarify the name, address and phone number of the company, the position and duties before applying for vacancies – ring and check if you’re unsure, genuine vacancies will usually include these details

· Genuine employers may ask for bank details and ask to see your passport – but only at the later stages of recruitment once they’ve offered you a position: be cautious of employers asking for these details early in the recruitment process

· Many recruitment agencies belong to Recruitment Employers’ Confederation (REC) and follow their code of practice

· Always be suspicious of jobs where the recruitment process seems ‘easy’ e.g. you go for an interview and are offered the job on the spot

· If in doubt about a vacancy/employer or recruitment agency, contact Careers and Employability for further advice


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