Don’t Fall Prey to Fraud: Safety Tips for Job Seekers

Cheerful woman working at home

While online classifieds sites and social media platforms offer a host of valuable opportunities for South Africa’s job seekers, it’s important that anyone using these channels is aware of the risk of fraudulent activity and is equipped to take steps to safeguard themselves.

One scam in particular has been doing the rounds, involving an advertisement for a domestic worker position. People who apply for the position are told that they’ve been successful but need to pay a fee to secure the job. Applicants then arrive at the agreed place of work to find that the job is a scam.

Claire Cobbledick, Head of Core Business for Gumtree South Africa says the online classifieds giant continues to work hard to keep the platform as safe as possible.

“Gumtree employs tools that automatically detect and flag suspicious adverts, as well as a full-time Customer Support team that performs manual checks and reviews”, she says.

However, as scammers become more tech-savvy and sophisticated, prevention is more important than cure. Cobbledick adds that the majority of scam cases come with common warning signs that, if heeded, can prevent jobseekers from falling prey to fraud. 

Don’t pay to apply

Most importantly, Gumtree users should never pay money to a prospective employer. “The biggest indicator that a vacancy is not legitimate is if the poster attempts to solicit money from the applicant,” says Cobbledick. “No genuine employer will offer a position and expect the potential employee to hand over money before they have successfully secured the job.”

Similarly, it is not necessary to pay an interview fee to a recruiter. “Recruiters receive commission (from the employer) on candidates that are successfully placed. They are highly unlikely to charge candidates to set up an interview, so be very wary if you are asked to pay cash to any recruitment company.”

While some companies do perform credit checks (with permission), there is no need to hand over your money or financial information until you’ve been successfully placed. If a company asks you to pay for training materials, or to secure an interview, stay away. 

Keep the conversation on the platform

One method that scammers use to avoid detection is to lure job seekers away from the classifieds platform where the ad is placed, and onto a conversation application like WhatsApp, so that communication can’t be easily traced. Cobbledick says that using on-platform communication (like Gumtree’s Chat Function) makes it easier to track and take action against prospective scammers.

Another common scam tactic is to request that applicants SMS a word or phrase (e.g. JOB) to a specific number to obtain more information about an advertised position. This results in money being deducted from the candidate’s airtime or cellphone account. A legitimate business will provide a phone number and email address, not an SMS line. 

If it seems too good to be true, it usually is

Cobbledick also urges job seekers to be wary of ads that seem too good to be true. “If someone is offering a job to an unskilled worker, or an ad says that there are no qualifying criteria for applicants, but the listing comes an unreasonably high salary and numerous benefits, it’s best to steer clear.”

Cobbledick advises anyone who is concerned about a job advert to report the listing to Gumtree immediately on help.gumtree.co.za. Any jobseekers that have fallen prey to a scam, should report that matter to both Gumtree and the SAPS as the two parties work hand in hand to combat crime.

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