For 67-year-old Adam*, starting a new job was supposed to bring him some extra income.
The last thing he expected was for it to destroy him financially.
After seeing a job advertisement on Facebook, Adam applied and was contacted over WhatsApp.
The company that posted the ad told him they handled e-commerce for LUISAVIAROMA, an Italian luxury retailer.
After being offered the job, Adam was given a demonstration on how to use the company’s platform — all of which was fake.
In the span of five days, Adam was scammed out of $28,000.
“It was a disaster. It ruined me,” Adam told ABC News.
The original advert posted by the scammers on Facebook.(Supplied: Adam ) Screenshots of Adam’s WhatsApp conversations with the scammer.(Supplied: Adam)
Adam’s job was to act as the “buyer”, meaning he was asked to deposit varying amounts of his own money into the “seller’s” account in order to buy products.
The scammer then promised to deliver these products, offering Adam a large commission on top of the product price.
This is a common tactic used by e-commerce scammers.
Adam said the scammers’ website used identical logos and copywriting to the Italian retailer, along with other well-known companies, including Target, Coles and Bunnings.
The scammer told Adam they required almost $8,000 for one order. (Supplied: Adam)
“It all gave the appearance of being totally legitimate,” he said.
Three days into the “job”, the scammer had asked Adam to increase his deposit for an order.
It was almost $8,000.
Reluctantly, he obliged.
By the fifth day, Adam had lost a total of $28,000, forcing him to realise the entire thing was a set-up.
What are recruitment scams?
It’s the scam that preys on the most-vulnerable feeling job seekers have: hope.
Scammers pretend to be hiring on behalf of high-profile companies and online shopping platforms and impersonate well-known recruitment agencies.
The scammer contacts you by email, letter or phone and offers you a job that requires very little effort for high returns, or a guaranteed way to make money quickly.
You may often come across false job opportunities on social media, like Adam did.
In 2022 alone, criminals stole more than $8.7 million from Australians — and that’s just what’s been reported to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC).
“If you are job-hunting and you are offered work that requires little effort for a big financial reward, it is most likely a scam,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“This might include repeatedly clicking a button on a website or app to purchase products or submit reviews.”
Who are scammers targeting?
Recruitment scams target Australians looking to make the most of a highly competitive job market.
Young Australians are in the spotlight, according to the ACCC.
“We know younger people are particularly vulnerable, with Australians aged between 25 and 44 reporting the biggest losses to job scams,” Ms Rickard said.
This includes the thousands of young Australians who have finished school and graduated from university, with high hopes about their future careers.
While he may be outside of this age bracket, Adam, like many, was searching for employment amid the nation’s rising cost of living.
Coping with his loss of savings, Adam feels ‘let down’ by his bank
After Adam realised he had been scammed, he called NAB to notify them of what happened. He said greater measures could have been taken by them to prevent the substantial loss of money.
“NAB didn’t try to contact me, to flag these large transfers going out of my account. I feel let down.” Adam said.
“Why didn’t they ask me: Are you doing this transfer under coercion?”
After submitting a formal complaint, NAB eventually returned $6,000 to Adam.
ABC News contacted NAB but they did not return comment in time for publication.
Adam says the entire experience has “significantly heightened” his caution while being online.
“Coping with such a loss of savings is very difficult. I am receiving professional counselling to help me get through,” he said.
As a job seeker, how can I protect myself?
Real recruitment companies won’t contact you out of the blue via channels such as WhatsApp or social media, says the ACCC.
They also won’t offer you a “work from home” remote opportunity that promises little effort for a high salary.
“If a job offer sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam,” Ms Rickard said.
Tips to protect yourself:
- Don’t trust the legitimacy of a job ad just because it appears on a trusted platform or website
- Research the recruiter offering the position
- Contact the recruitment agency via phone numbers sourced from an internet search
- Be suspicious if the role is offered to you without an interview
- A legitimate job offer will not require you to make an immediate decision
- Be cautious of recruiters that contact you via platforms like WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram
- Avoid any arrangement that asks for up-front payment
NAB’s executive for group investigations and fraud and former fraud detective with the Australian Federal Police, Chris Sheehan, said it was not just the elderly being conned.
“I think there’s a misperception out there that scam victims are typically older people, perhaps people who are less-technologically savvy. That is absolutely not the case,” he said.
If you believe you’ve been the victim of a scam, you can report and receive support from Scamwatch.
*Names have been changed to protect identity.