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Tread carefully when applying for jobs online, says CERT NZ

Techblog Staff. 09 September 2020, 4:29 pm

CERT NZ is urging job seekers to be cautious when applying for new employment following a raft of online recruitment scams.

The organisation has received a number of reports about fake job advertisements posted on recruitment sites and copycat employer websites, in which online scammers attempt to trick job hunters into sharing personal information.

CERT NZ has recently seen examples of scammers posing as an employer, advising applicants that the role requires a high level of security clearance and they need to complete an attached Police Check form. In doing so, applicants unwittingly give the scammer a significant amount of personal information including their address, passport details, and employment history.

Once a scammer has obtained an individual's personal information they can use it to conduct a range of criminal activities, including online fraud. This can have very serious repercussions for the affected person including financial loss or a negative impact on their credit rating, which can, in turn, prevent them from buying a house or applying for a credit card. 

In these instances CERT NZ - the government agency which supports organisations and individuals affected by cyber security incidents - works with the affected employer or job website and the relevant email domain provider to quickly remove the job advertisement from the internet and close the scammer's email address. 

"Employment scams are nothing new.  However, it seems that cyber attackers are taking advantage of the current employment situation resulting from Covid-19," says CERT NZ Director, Rob Pope.

"Generally, we receive about one report of fake job ads a fortnight, but we recently had six reports in an hour, which is very concerning.

"Looking for work can be a very stressful at the best of times, and these types of scams can add additional pressure to the job seeking process. One good rule of thumb is that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

"At first glance, it might be hard to detect if a job ad is genuine or not, but once you know what to look for you can avoid the pitfalls. That's why we've compiled some handy hints to help job seekers and legitimate recruiters."

CERT NZ's six steps to safe job hunting online are:

1. Pay attention to the URL

Scammers create websites with addresses that mimic those of large brands or companies, such as "" as opposed to "". They anticipate that people will skim over the address and domain name. Most browsers allow you to quickly verify links by hovering over them before you click. Shortened URLs (like or links redirecting you somewhere else are indications that the website may be fake. Also, keep a weather eye out for subdomains on a link. When in doubt, verify an organisation's webpage and navigate your way to the job ad from there. Or, get in touch with the organisation to find out how you can apply.


2. Check the company's online presence

Most recruitment agencies and organisations will post their vacancies to several job boards to reach as many people as possible. If you can only find the job on a single board, then it may be suspect. Contact the organisation directly to find out if the job is real. If the company has no online presence, that's a warning sign.


3. Cross-reference the contact details

Check that the recruiter's email matches the company's domain name - that is, that the email ends in the official company name. Some scam emails may look like they have come from a real company, such as [email protected], when the real company email is [email protected]. Always check. You can paste the email into the search bar and type in 'scam' to see if anyone else has reported it. Emails from a personal account, rather than an organisation's email address, are also a red flag.


4. Be wary of interviews via messaging services 

It is becoming more common for job interviews to take place over the phone or via video calls. However, you should be wary if your first interview is on an instant messenger service. Find out more about the company and the person you are speaking to. If you do agree to the interview, don't share personal information such as your bank details.


5. Reach out to employers

Some fake websites act as a funnel, posting real positions from genuine recruitment sites as a way to get people's personal information. If you see a job on a recruitment website you're not familiar with reach out to the employer to check and ask for the legitimate channels for applying.


6. You didn't contact them; they contacted you

Take a cautious approach if an employer contacts you from out of the blue, especially if they offer you a job straight away or request to interview you. Also, keep an eye out for lots of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes as these can be an indication of a fake job.

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by a fake recruitment scam, the best thing to do is to seek help. People can report confidentially to CERT NZ to get help to recover, either at or by calling 0800 CERT NZ (0800 2378 69).


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