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Jobseeker Loses £16.5k and Faces Bankruptcy as a Result of Sophisticated WhatsApp Job Scam

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Victim ‘Alice’ was targeted by a ‘job task scam’ after seeking employment to make extra cash to cover care expenses for her elderly mother.

‘Alice’ has shared her story of being duped by a convincing recruitment scam targeting UK jobseekers whilst looking for employment to supplement her full-time job and support her elderly mother. She told This is Money how the scam cost her £16.5k in total, and she has been left penniless as a result.

‘Alice’ (name changed to protect her identity) had been uploading her CV to various online job sites, in order to secure some part-time income alongside her full-time job. She was then contacted on WhatsApp by an individual called ‘Mandy’ who claimed to be from recruitment agency, Robert Half – a legitimate agency.

After doing some initial checks, Alice was satisfied that the contact was authentic and ‘Mandy’ passed her on to another individual called ‘Lucy’ from an app development agency called Indiespring – again, a legitimate company. What Alice would not realise until much later, however, was that neither of these individuals actually worked for the companies they were claiming to be from, and they were using the companies’ details fraudulently.

Lucy, who claimed to be from Indiespring, introduced Alice to her job role: to complete a series of 30 tasks, following each of which an amount of money would be deposited into her account which she could then withdraw after all 30 were complete. She was able to withdraw £106 initially without adding any of her own money.

Alice was somewhat uncomfortable with the setup and decided that she did not want to complete any further tasks; however, Lucy convinced her to complete three more to make more money, at which point Alice’s balance went into negative numbers. She was then told that she needed to add some of her own money using a cryptocurrency called USDT.

Alice believed that she had no choice but to keep adding money in order to prevent the account from going further into the red, but told Lucy she could not add any more:

“I was already maxed out – I’d borrowed from friends and family, maxed out my credit cards. I usually get paid on the 25th and put my whole month’s salary in. I had nothing left for the month.”

Eventually, after putting £16.5k into the account and having nothing left to give, Alice refused to put in any more money; she was then blocked from the platform and unable to withdraw any funds.

Alice raised complaints with both of her banks, Revolut and Wise, to try and secure compensation. Both banks claimed they could not refund any of the money, as she had approved the payments and used cryptocurrency, which is largely untraceable.

This type of fraud is known as Authorised Push Payment (APP) fraud, so-called because scammers rely on victims to authorise payments by bank transfer or card payment willingly. They use various social engineering techniques, such as impersonation and manipulation, to convince the victim that, what they are paying or transferring money for, is legitimate. Often, the scammers move the money on to another account straightaway or encourage the victim to use cryptocurrency wallets, making it incredibly difficult to trace, recover, or refund.

Unfortunately, Alice’s story is not uncommon, and scams targeting jobseekers are on the rise in the UK, taking advantage of people looking to make extra cash as the cost-of-living increases and finances get tighter, as well as leveraging the significant growth in home working. While legitimate recruiters may contact jobseekers out of the blue, it is important to be able to recognise the hallmarks of an employment or job scam, which can include:

  • Task scams: the type of scam that Alice was targeted by. The scammer tells you that completing basic tasks will help you earn money or credits. Unfortunately, the portals are often faked, and you end up putting in more money than you could ever make.
  • Advance-fee scams: the scammer will ask you for an upfront payment or deposit to cover the cost of certain necessities for the job, such as training, equipment, or pre-employment checks, with the promise that you will be reimbursed once the job starts. Neither the job nor the goods exist, and the scammer leaves you out of pocket.
  • Fake cheque scams: these are similar to advance-fee scams, but the scammer will promise to reimburse you with a cheque. The cheque bounces, and the scammer disappears.

As well as spotting the signs of a job scam, there are also some steps you can take to check that a job opportunity or company is legitimate:

  • Check the company’s details on the Companies House website and ensure that 1) the company is genuine and 2) the details match up to what you already have.
  • Contact the company directly (using the details on their website, not those given by the recruiter) to confirm the legitimacy of the job advert.
  • Check the recruitment pages of the company’s website to see if the vacancies are genuine.
  • Research through LinkedIn and the company’s website the details of any individuals mentioned to check if they actually exist and work for the company in question.
  • A genuine recruiter will not put undue pressure on you to make a decision, but scammers will. And remember, if something seems too good to be true, it often is.

If you have lost money to a job or employment scam, you should immediately report the fraud to your bank, the police and Action Fraud, the National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre.

Your bank will investigate the case and, depending on the circumstances may issue a refund; however, as the money has usually been moved on, this is not guaranteed.

Banks are increasingly being held to account and shouldering responsibility for APP scams. If they have failed to sufficiently protect their customers from fraud, by not providing sufficient warnings or safeguards when scams occur, they can be ordered to pay compensation to their customer.

If you have lost money to an employment push payment scam and your bank is refusing to compensate you, then you can take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), an independent, government-backed body responsible for resolving disputes between consumers and financial institutions, such as banks.

TLW Solicitors’ APP fraud team has experience taking APP fraud cases to FOS on behalf of clients and securing part, if not full, compensation.

Sarah Spruce, Head of the APP Fraud team at TLW Solicitors, commented:

“We are seeing these types of employment and job scams more and more both in the news and with our clients, and we have seen how convincing the fraudsters can be. We advise anyone looking for jobs and uploading their details online to be extremely vigilant when contacted by anyone out of the blue, even if it turns out to be a legitimate agency. Follow our steps to confirm the identity of the person you’re speaking to, and don’t rush into anything.

If you or a loved one fall victim to one of these scams – all is not lost. Even if you feel embarrassed or ashamed about losing money in this way, get in touch with a member of the TLW scam team and we’ll explore your options, including the possibility of making a no-win, no-fee compensation claim.”

TLW Solicitors has an experienced team of scam compensation specialists who regularly deal with clients who have lost money due to employment 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 info@tlwsolicitors.co.uk or complete one of the forms below.

It is important to get advice as soon as possible, as strict time limits can apply.

Minimum case values apply.

Meet Our Team

Meet Sarah, who heads up our experienced Authorised Push Payment Fraud Claims team.

Sarah and her colleagues are on hand to help with your claim.