An investigation has uncovered an insidious WhatsApp scam aimed at unsuspecting job seekers, and it's thought to be worth an estimated €100 million
As part of the investigation, Euronews Next surveyed a dozen individuals who had been approached by WhatsApp scammers and detailed some of the common features:
- Recruiters’ names were always female
- The jobs on offer were related to data entry or optimising data
- The positions offered flexible working hours and home-working
- The salaries were inflated for the type of job on offer, often around €344 (£300) per hour
- The recruiter ended their initial message with a variation of “May I send some more information?” prompting a reply
- The payment was via cryptocurrency
There were some slight variations to the initial contact; for example, the origin of the contact number was not always local, and some reporting numbers were from the US or Pakistan. Some scammers claimed to be from legitimate companies, such as Reed or Indeed. For the most part, however, there were heavy similarities between the messages received.
When the Euronews Next investigators replied to the message as part of their research, requesting information, they received a (seemingly ‘copied and pasted’) series of messages indicating that the role would be to “assist Digital Logic merchants in increasing product revenue” by completing hour-long tasks that would return €750 in cryptocurrency if five days’ of tasks were completed in a row.
As the investigators went back and forth with the ‘recruiter’, who gave her name as Stella, they undertook a week’s worth of training on the platform. They were then told to set up a crypto wallet to access the funds from the Digital Logic website. They were also told they would need to add $30 of their own money to the wallet to “access the second set of tasks”.
The investigation did not go much further than this but reports from victims have shown that as they complete more and more tasks (and see their ‘pay’ rising in their crypto wallet), they have to input more and more of their own money. However, no matter how much the victims pay upfront, their ‘earnings’ are never transferred from the crypto wallets back to the victims’ accounts; it is already with the scammers.
Digital Logic has been confirmed to be part of a scamming network, and this type of scam is known as a ‘task scam’.
Task scams are a type of recruitment and employment scam in which victims are instructed to perform relatively simple-seeming tasks for attractive pay. Often, they involve a website or mobile app that claims you can earn money by completing easy tasks, such as watching a video, liking a post, or creating an order.
Payment for task scams is almost always via cryptocurrency. The victim will be given details of a wallet or program where they can watch their payment increase, but these are often faked, and the scammer actually controls any money in the wallet.
Anyone who comes across a job opportunity that is paid via cryptocurrency should tread very carefully and do sufficient research before proceeding. This could include:
- Checking the company’s details on Companies House and ensuring that 1) the company is genuine and 2) the details match up to what you already have.
- Contacting the company directly (using the details on their website, not those given by the ‘recruiter’) to confirm the legitimacy of the job advert
Checking the recruitment pages of the company’s website to see if the vacancies are genuine.
- Researching, through LinkedIn and the company’s website, the details of any individuals mentioned to check they exist and are genuine
Money is understandably tight now due to the cost-of-living crisis and rising bills. People are looking for ways to make extra cash, which is being exploited by the scammers – the most important thing to remember is that, if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The tactic that many scammers use as part of these types of schemes to get their hands on victims’ money is known as Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud.
APP fraud sees payments willingly transferred by the victim to a scammer for a purpose that they believe to be legitimate (such as setting up a crypto wallet). Because of faster payment systems, this money is instantaneously in the scammer’s account, at which point it is swiftly moved on. By the time the victim realises they have been scammed, the funds are extremely hard to trace, making it unlikely to recover anything.
Banks in the UK have a responsibility to keep their customers safe from fraud by putting in place procedures and sanctions such as:
- Monitoring accounts and transactions for signs of fraud, scams, and money laundering.
- Implementing systems to identify, delay or block suspicious transactions that could point to fraud.
- Following the City watchdog Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) guidance on how to protect consumers from fraud.
However, in some cases of APP fraud where banks had refused to refund victims, the case has been taken to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) for an independent review. FOS is a Government-backed body that deals with complaints between financial institutions and their customers. If they find fault with the banks, they also have the power to award compensation.
Sarah Spruce, Head of the APP Fraud team at TLW Solicitors commented:
“I have seen firsthand how these scammers work, and I am not surprised in the least to hear the sheer scale of the money being lost. These scammers are preying on ordinary people, as well as genuine jobseekers looking to make extra cash in a very financially tough time. Anyone looking for a job or a way to make extra cash should be extremely wary of any opportunity that pays in cryptocurrency or requires you to put your own money in to accumulate more; there are very few – if any – legitimate companies that would work this way.”
TLW Solicitors has an experienced team of scam compensation specialists who regularly deal with clients who have lost money as a result of employment, recruitment or task-related APP scams.
We offer a free, no-obligation assessment of your case. If we take on your case, we operate on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, meaning you only pay us if your claim is successful.
Please call us on 0800 169 5925, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete one of the forms below.
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Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Authorised Push Payment Fraud Claims team.
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