There has been an increase in criminals taking advantage of unsuspecting job seekers in South Africa, says Lettie-Basani Phume, executive of group human capital at Momentum Metropolitan.

Phume said that scammers are becoming more sophisticated and convincing. Impersonator profiles mimic well-known or searchable employers pretending that there is a not-to-be-missed investment or a job with high pay and good benefits.

According to Momentum, fake Facebook and Twitter profiles often include copied photographs and accurate biography details of the person they are impersonating, making the con that much more believable.

These circumstances have increased in frequency as a result of the vastly competitive job market in South Africa.

The most recent employment data from Statistics South Africa under the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLES) for the third quarter of 2022  indicates that 32.9% of South Africans are unemployed.

Phume said that recently a group of job seekers from the North West province were promised both an interview and a half-day of training for the cost of transport to offices in Centurion.

“After paying for transport, people were disappointed when the transport did not arrive, and they found out that neither the interview nor training were real,” said the executive. Once the con was revealed, the criminals discontinued their mobile numbers.

To best protect yourself from such crimes, Momentum provided the following tips:

  • Be cautious of direct messages or friend requests from people you don’t know or recognise: Scammers often use fake social media accounts and WhatsApp profiles to defraud you. Ask yourself how likely it is that a large company will have your phone number to Whatsapp you directly with a job offer, said Phume.
  • Check who you are transacting with: If you receive an SMS, WhatsApp, call or email from someone claiming to be from a reputable company, contact the company directly to verify that the person and the offer are legitimate, added the executive.
  • Never deposit money for the exchange of potential work: “Be vigilant if you are asked to make deposits into a personal bank account or make payments via WhatsApp. Usually, representatives are never authorised to accept cash or deposits into private bank accounts on behalf of the company.”
  • Don’t be pressured into making decisions immediately: Offers that are time sensitive or urgent are ploys to get you to make a hurried decision. Legitimate organisations will give you time to make an informed decision, so don’t be pressured into making decisions immediately.
  • Only meet somewhere safe: Reputable companies will only interview you at their offices, a registered employment agency, or via an online call. Never agree to meet at a private home or apartment for an interview.
  • Don’t share personal or financial information: Legitimate companies will not call, email, SMS, or WhatsApp to ask for your personal or financial information. These details significantly increase the chance of identity theft.
  • Do research on the company before applying: Researching a company can provide insight into its legitimacy, such as a website, social media presence, and reviews from previous employees. It is important to know if the company is reputable and well-known in its industry or if it has any negative reviews.

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