Fraudsters are reportedly setting up fake job advertisements targeting UK jobseekers in order to trick them into selling fake products online - before making off with the profits.
According to Action Fraud, scammers were spotted posing as recruiters who claimed they needed people for sales roles. Any applicants would be informed they would be selling goods, such as cars or machinery, via online marketplaces – think eBay and Gumtree – on behalf of a firm.
Jobseekers would then be told they had to use personal bank accounts and online marketplace sign-in details, with the fake employers typically giving a "vague excuse" for the peculiar arrangement.
Crucially, the firm would set up a fake escrow account for the money to flow through. Legitimate escrow providers hold money as a transaction is being finalised – in this case it was all smoke and mirrors.
Applicants would be sent photos and information about the fake products they would be selling in order to create ads to entice the primary victims: the buyers.
The products, Action Fraud said, would often be priced well below market value.
After the buyer of non-existent goods had their money transferred into the bogus escrow account, no goods would be received and all contact would be broken off.
"This leads to a financial loss for the buyer of the goods as nothing is ever received," the watchdog said in a release (23 October). "Likewise, the recruited jobseeker receives none of the promised payment for their work as originally detailed in the bogus job advertisement."
Lee Munson, a security researcher at Comparitech, told IBTimes UK that modern job fraud typically involves victims "being duped into acting as a selling agent for goods or services that do not exist."
"The best way of defending against such scams is to keep your wits about you - always check a company out online, cross reference with Companies House," he said. "Never pay a fee to get any kind of job and, lastly, remember if something seems too good to be true, it probably is."
Action Fraud advised the public to never assume that advertised job vacancies had been verified by websites. It warned that "genuine businesses would never ask you to use your personal bank or online payment accounts to facilitate business transactions" or sign up to marketplaces.
"Although many legitimate job vacancies are internet-based sales roles, those which are vague about the business [...] should be approached with caution," it warned.
Javvad Malik, security expert at AlienVault, told IBTimes UK: "The main thing people can do is always approach online offers with a high degree of caution.
"We need to bear in mind that people that fall for these scams are often desperate for employment or are in tough times so their judgement may be clouded by the potential upside."