Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist


How to spot social media job scams a mile away

With over 32% of South Africans struggling to find jobs, it is no wonder that job scams targeting job seekers are becoming more common.


As social media becomes more intertwined with our daily routines, sly cybercriminals are using it to trick people with fake job offers.

“Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tricks to match the latest trends. As job searches on social media grow, so does the potential for recruitment-related fraud,” Anna Collard, SVP content strategist at KnowBe4 AFRICA, says.

There are two types of recruitment scams, although they all have the same aim: conning you into giving them money or your personal details. The first kind involves impersonation, where fraudsters pose as legitimate recruiters and reach out to you via WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook, LinkedIn or email.

“They may use stolen logos and profile pictures of very attractive people to lure you into thinking they are from an HR department or recruitment firm.”

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Beware of these social media job scams

Collard says there have recently been scams where fraudsters posed as the department of employment and labour to advertise fake job opportunities. In these incidents, individuals seeking jobs were required to pay R250 upfront for supposed “background checks” at PEP Stores.

Similarly, jobseekers from the North-West province fell victim to a scheme where they paid for transport to an interview and half-day training in Centurion, only to find out that the job offers did not exist.

The second type of scam involves fake job postings. Using legitimate job boards, scammers post fake job offers to get your personal information. “Facebook, with its broad user base, is particularly desirable for scammers. They exploit the platform’s features, like Groups and Marketplace, to post fake job listings and approach potential victims.”

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How to stay safe when you are job hunting

When you are hunting for a job, how can you stay safe? Collard says there are three clear indicators that the job posting or recruitment drive could be a scam:

  • Unsolicited offers and unprofessional communication

“Beware of unsolicited job offers, especially if you did not apply for them. Legitimate employers follow a formal recruitment process and will not haphazardly reach out on social media. Another red flag is unprofessional communication. Spelling errors, poor grammar, an international phone number on WhatsApp, or an email address from Gmail or Yahoo should make you take a step back.

  • Remote work that pays well

Another warning bell is that the job offer is for a “fully remote” position and offers very attractive pay. “Often this is a sign that it is a scam, as criminals know that most people want to work from home. Also, if the salary sounds astronomical for the particular position, be wary.”

She says, rather, research what the salary range for similar positions is before you respond to tempting job offers. “It is also better to verify the job offer is real by contacting the company directly.”

  • Requests for payment or your info

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Never pay for employment services

The most significant warning sign is when someone asks for payment for application fees, training courses, or background checks. As per the Employment Services Act, no one can charge jobseekers for employment services. “If you are asked to pay anything for your recruitment, it is a clear scam.”

Similarly, legitimate employers will not ask for your sensitive personal information, such as your ID number or bank account details, until a very advanced stage of the recruitment process. “This information is usually only requested after a job offer has been extended.”

To ensure your safety during your job search, it is important to take precautions. Trust your instincts and be cautious.

“Pay attention to warning signs such as unsolicited job offers, requests to download links and demands for payment or personal information.”

By maintaining a healthy level of scepticism and taking proactive steps to verify the legitimacy of job offers and recruiters, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams. And remember: anything that sounds or looks too good to be true, most likely is not.

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