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What is a job scam, and how can you protect yourself?

Security specialist

2024-04-03 00:00

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Imagine checking social media one morning to find a new message request. “Want to earn up to $300 an hour? We’re hiring and we think you would be a perfect candidate.” Sounds too good to be true, right? Maybe it’s your lucky day. But most likely, it’s a job scam. 

In 2023, Scamwatch, reported losses of over $23 million thanks to job scams alone. They warned that job-related scams are on the rise in part due to rising cost of living pressures.

The bottom line is, as brilliant as you are at your job, it’s unlikely you’ll be hired on the spot for one you never applied for, but scammers know just how to make an offer you can’t refuse. That’s why we’re here to help stop job scammers from getting in the way of finding your dream job.


What are job scams?

A job scam is when you’re offered employment, that promises a high wage or a guaranteed path to fast money for little effort. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, that’s because for the most part, this type of job only exists, well, in our dreams. Scammers will dangle this reality in front of you, hoping to get around your better judgement and ultimately, gain access to your money, your bank details or other private information to use for criminal purposes.

These scams come in various forms, which can include:

  • An email from a ‘recruitment company’ that offers you a high-paying position you didn’t apply for.

  • A job listing found on a recruitment website, a casting website, or posted on social media.

  • A job offer through SMS or a message from an encrypted message service, like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, from a scammer posing as a well-known company.

Job scams are on the rise, in part because of a rising need for a second income due to the increased cost of living. Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services, The Hon Stephen Jones issued a warning against these types of scams in late 2023, citing astonishing data from the National Anti‑Scams Centre (NASC) showing a 740% increase in financial losses thanks to employment scams. 

6 common job scam red flags

Scammers take advantage of our weaknesses and they do it in increasingly sophisticated ways. It can take a keen eye to identify a dodgy deal, but these red flags can help you spot a job scam before you sign on the dotted line:

  1. The job requires that you pay any sort of onboarding, or recruitment fee.

  2. You are required to commit a significant sum of money to buy a lot of products to sell,  with a promise of reimbursement by your “employer”.

  3. Similarly, if you are required to use your own bank account or create an account with a cryptocurrency platform to move ‘company’ funds, this could be a sign it’s a scam.

  4. Being offered a job immediately, before being interviewed.

  5. Job offers that are not personally addressed to you.

  6. An employer with no known street address.

What are the different types of job scams?

Job scams can come in many forms, so let’s take a look at some of the most common examples.

Recruitment company scams

  • These types of job scams often involve direct contact with the scammer. They will reach out, claiming to have scouted you for a particular role.

  • Once on board, the scammer will ask you to fill in personal information to be hired, or to pay a recruitment fee, or agree to a set-up where you must use uncommon or alternative methods of payment (cash app, bank transfer, crypto etc.) as part of your new ‘role’.

Job ad scams

  • This scam involves an ad for a high-paying, low-effort role that’s advertised on a job search website, recruitment website or social media.

  • Once hooked, the scammer will often spend time ‘training’ you and will try to get personal and financial information from you so that you can complete the hiring process.

  • They might ask you to use your own bank account to transfer money to another account.

Side-hustle scams

  • These scams are on the rise as part of a near-tripling of income lost to employment scams in 2023 according to the National Anti-Scam Centre's, Scamwatch.

  • Most of the time, side hustle scams will reach you through fake job ads posted on social media, often targeting young people looking to earn extra money to support study or casual work.

  • These jobs often entail liking social posts or reviewing products to increase product ratings or boost advertising reach. They will come from recognisable retailers or marketing agencies (of course, the scammer is only pretending to be from these companies).

  • Once you respond to the ad, the scammer often reaches out via an encrypted message service like WhatsApp and convinces you to make an investment followed by further payments they claim will help you to “level up” in the business and make even more money (which victims will never see). 

How can you protect yourself from job scams?

Employment scams are currently the fastest-growing scam type affecting Australians, so it pays to learn some simple ways to keep yourself (and your income) safe.

  1. If you’re contacted out of the blue, proceed with a healthy dose of scepticism. It’s not common to get a dream job offer out of the blue.

  2. Do some research into the ‘company’ that reached out to you and verify the job offer. This can help you work out if the company is actually hiring, or if someone else is impersonating them.

  3. Be wary of job opportunities that require you to use your own bank account to transfer funds elsewhere. You may be unknowingly recruited as a money mule.

  4. Likewise, if a friend or acquaintance asks you if you want to earn more money while working from home, get the company’s name upfront so you can check their offer.

  5. Be cautious of jobs being advertised on social media as potential ‘side hustles’. Always verify the opportunity is real by using trusted channels to contact the company being represented in the job ad.

What can you do if you’ve been scammed?

If you have been targeted by a job scam, you are not alone. Job scams have been on the rise in recent years, with scammers finding new ways to disguise themselves. We’re here to take you through some ways to protect yourself from further financial harm.

  • If you have shared financial information or believe you have transferred money to a scammer, notify your bank immediately. If you’re an ANZ customer, please contact us immediately.

  • If you shared credit card details, block or cancel those cards immediately. If your cards are with ANZ, you can do this through the app. Learn more.

  • Report the scam to the platform the scammer used to engage with you, such as social media or a job search website.


Who can you talk to if you’ve been scammed?

  • Report the scam to the Police through the Australian Signals Directorate’s ReportCyber portal. This resource is there for reports of scams where money or personal information has been lost.

  • You can contact the Australian cyber security hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1300 CYBER1 (or 1300 292 371).

  • Help others by reporting to Scamwatch to help them prevent future losses, monitor trends and educate the population about emerging threats. 

  • You can also contact IDCare, a not-for-profit organisation providing support to those experiencing identity and cyber security concerns.
What is a job scam, and how can you protect yourself?
Security specialist

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This information seeks to raise awareness and provides general information only. It may be necessary or appropriate  to ensure that measures are taken in addition to, or in substitution for, the measures presented having regard to your particular personal or business circumstances.