Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Beware of these job scams

The more desperate people are to find jobs in a tight job market, the easier it is for scammers to cash in on their desperation.

In a time when unemployment is high and thousands of job seekers who completed matric are joining the job market, it is important to beware of job scams.

With the increase of online job portals and social media platforms finding your dream job has never been easier, but this also creates fertile ground for scammers.

There is a common scam on WhatsApp, for instance, which offers people thousands of rands for doing things such as subscribing and liking YouTube channels or submitting screenshots of particular locations for a fee.

Sumsub’s third annual Identity Fraud Report states that South Africa saw a 1,200% increase in deepfake frauds, where people steal images to impersonate them and even go as far as manipulating their voices to sound like them, in the past year.

“In today’s digital landscape, vigilance is key. Scammers employ sophisticated tactics and therefore it is crucial to stay informed and exercise caution throughout your job search. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” says Larisha Naidoo, head of Zimele, Anglo American’s enterprise and supplier development arm.

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Job scams to watch out for

Naidoo warns job seekers about these common red flags to watch out for:

  • Unsolicited WhatsApp offers: legitimate companies usually have official WhatsApp channels for communication. Double check their websites and social media pages for authorised channels and enquire about the specific job offer from there.
  • Mismatched email addresses: scrutinise company email addresses, Naidoo warns. “Scammers often mimic the company’s official format, but with slight variations, like adding an extra letter. Verify the email format on the company’s website and be wary of any discrepancies.”
  • Missing job postings: if the supposed opportunity is not advertised on the company website or official social media pages, it is probably a scam, Naidoo says. “Always check their official channels for legitimate vacancies.”
  • Typos and grammatical errors: professional companies prioritise quality control and therefore documents with spelling errors or grammatical mistakes should raise suspicion.
  • Upfront payments: legitimate companies never ask for money upfront for job opportunities or to secure contracts. Beware of requests for quotes (RFQs) demanding pre-payments.
  • Phishing attempts: scammers often use suspicious links or prize offers to phish for personal and banking information. Never click on these links or provide sensitive details unless you are absolutely sure of the source’s legitimacy.
  • Pressure tactics: Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency, pressuring you to make quick decisions without time for proper research.
  • Fake interviews: be sceptical if an interview is conducted solely through emails or messaging apps. Legitimate companies usually conduct video or phone interviews at the very least, or they ask you to come in person.

ALSO READ: Unemployment rate decline still too insignificant to celebrate – research group

Trust your instinct

“Trust your gut instinct,” Naidoo says. “If something about the opportunity feels off, do not ignore it. It is better to be cautious than fall victim to a scam.”

What should you do if you do encounter a job scam? “Report it,” Naidoo says. “The department of employment and labour has a fraud reporting hotline you can reach out to, but we also need to promote a culture of awareness and share our knowledge about job scams with friends, family and online communities.”

She says your best defence is to educate yourself and others and exercise caution: the more informed we all are, the harder it is for scammers to operate.

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