"We've said it before and it's worth reiterating - scammers and fraudsters are adept at trying to take advantage of changing circumstances," said Cllr Mike Bell, North Somerset Council's deputy leader whose portfolio includes consumer safety.
"The latest scam we've been alerted to is preying on people's desperation to generate some income if they've been unlucky enough to have lost their jobs," added Cllr Bell.
Fraudsters are targeting job-seekers with a recruitment scam that has already claimed 35 victims with losses totalling over £51,000. All of the victims have so far been from London but that doesn't mean the fraud won't spread across the country.
The fraudsters use recruitment websites and apps to identify potential targets. The victim is then cold-called by someone claiming to be an employee of a mobile phone network. The caller explains to the victim that they will need to take part in a 'mystery shopper' test in order to pass the recruitment process. The victim is instructed to visit one of the mobile network's high street stores and take out a phone contract using the victim's own personal and financial details. They are assured that the contract will be cancelled after the recruitment process is completed.
Once the victim has successfully taken out the contract, they are directed to drop-off points to deliver the phone and SIM card to a 'colleague' of the caller. The victim is reassured that the contract will be terminated.
Cllr Bell added: "In reality, the victims will never hear from the suspects again, and are left liable for the mobile phone contract they were convinced to purchase. Some victims are also asked to move the 'employer's' money through their own bank accounts, putting them at risk of committing money laundering offences. Others find out that their personal details have been used to take out loans, for which they are also now liable.
"Be on your guard and do all you can not to fall for these con artists."
Tips to help keep you safe from fraud include not putting personal information such as your full address, date of birth, or National Insurance number on your CV or public profiles on recruitment sites. To protect yourself against identity theft, always verify that the employer/recruiter you’re speaking with is who they say they are. Contact the employer by telephone number or email address on their official website, or through the company's verified social media accounts.
Visit https://innorthsomerset.co.uk/covid-19-support/ for information on support available locally.