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How have rogue employment agencies taken advantage of the COVID-19 crisis? How to avoid them

Posted in career-advice

The global response to the COVID-19 crisis involved shutting down entire sectors of the economy and restricting a wide range of revenue-generating activities, so it’s no surprise that despite furlough schemes and other stimulus measures, many people have found themselves out of work.

Of course, there were also many thousands of people in the UK who were already seeking employment at the outbreak of the pandemic, and have been forced to cope with a closed-down economy for much of 2020.

However, recruitment activity has continued throughout the year, and this has led to an increase in the prevalence of rogue employment agencies who are prepared to defraud legitimate candidates in a variety of ways.

employment agency

Why are there more rogue employment agencies in 2020?

The events of 2020 have been a perfect storm for an increase in fraudulent activity posing as recruitment consultancy services:

  • A rise in people out of work and urgently seeking employment.
  • A fall in the availability of legitimate and lucrative employment opportunities.
  • Disruption to some legitimate employment agencies’ activities.

With a sudden and significant change in the way people are interviewed and appointed into new roles, this has opened the door to the potential for applicants to become victims of fraud.

It is worth noting that the criminals carrying out such acts are not recruitment agents at all, but fraudsters using the industry as a front for their activities.

Common types of recruitment fraud

There are some common ways fraudsters attempt to trick would-be job applicants and employers looking to fill vacancies.

The most obvious is to ask for a fee or deposit to be paid upfront, at which point the fraudster simply disappears with the money.

Some examples of this include:

  • Charging employers a deposit or consultancy fee for a job listing that never appears.
  • Asking candidates to pay a finder’s fee to be referred for a vacancy that does not exist.
  • Spurious upfront charges e.g. transport/accommodation deposits, uniform deposits, CRB check fees etc.

The charity SAFERjobs offers support to individuals who work in the ‘flexible economy’ such as freelancers and gig workers, and saw reports of scams and frauds by UK employment agencies rise by two thirds in the six months following the start of lockdown.

Why choose a reputable recruitment agency?

It’s quite clear why you should choose a reputable recruitment agency to avoid falling victim to a rogue employment agent – but it’s important to understand what ‘reputable’ means in 2020.

SAFERjobs found some rogue employment agencies advertising non-existent jobs on legitimate online jobs boards, before collecting fraudulent fees and deposits from applicants who believed the vacancy had been vetted by the website operators.

In such cases, the website that lists the vacancy often cannot be held accountable, the fraudsters themselves cannot be traced, and the victim’s bank refuses to issue a refund.

For all of these reasons, it’s crucial to choose a reputable recruitment agency like Alexander Hancock whether you are recruiting or applying for jobs, and we will continue to work diligently to place the best candidates in the best roles as the UK economy recovers from recent events. Contact us today to see how we can help you.