Australians looking to earn extra money through online ‘side hustles’ are being urged to beware of scammers, after reported losses to Scamwatch for jobs and employment scams almost tripled in 2023.
Jobs and employment scams were the fastest growing scam type last year, with Australians reporting over 4,800 job scams to Scamwatch in 2023 leading to losses of $24.7 million, compared to $8.7 million in 2022.
Reports to Scamwatch show that these scams are disproportionally affecting younger Australians aged 18-44 years old, including students looking for part-time work. People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds including non-resident visa holders are also particularly at risk.
“As the cost of living continues to put pressure on households, many people are looking for opportunities to earn extra money, and scammers are taking advantage of this,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.
“Scammers are targeting people looking for online work in their spare time, promising them guaranteed income from jobs that include boosting the ratings of products and services through an online platform. In some cases, the jobs are as simple as liking posts on social media such as TikTok videos.”
The victims often report that they responded to an advertisement on social media about a job opportunity. The scammer will then contact the victim directly via encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
“The scam operates similar to an online game, with victims reporting that they are pressured to make an initial investment of their own money along with ongoing payments in order to ‘level up’ and receive a higher income which they never receive,” Ms Lowe said.
“If you see an ad on social media promising guaranteed income with flexible hours, or are contacted out of the blue on WhatsApp about a job opportunity, ask yourself if it could be a scam?”
“Scammers are trying to catch Australians out by pretending to be from well-known retailers and department stores, or in some cases posing as social media marketing agencies looking for people to boost posts by content producers,” Ms Lowe said.
How to spot the scam
- You see an ad on social media, offering good rates of pay or a guaranteed income for “boosting” products on a website. It may also mention flexible hours and that you can work from home. It may even be pitched as a side hustle.
- You’re directed to an encrypted messaging app such as WhatsApp to learn more about the job opportunity.
- You need to pay money as an initial investment in order to complete tasks and then are asked to make ongoing payments to receive a higher income.
- The recruiter says that no experience is required, all training is provided, and minimal paperwork is needed.
- The website used looks a bit different to the known brand. For example, it’s not listed as “.com.au” or “.com” even though it looks similar to an Australian store.
Top tips to avoid a job scam
STOP – Never click on links in texts or encrypted messages. Don’t give money or personal information if you are unsure. Scammers will create a sense of urgency, such as telling you an upfront payment is needed to secure a job. Don’t rush to act.
THINK – Ask yourself if the message could be fake? Would a legitimate employer seek a payment? Scammers pretend to be from organisations you know and trust. Contact the company or recruiter using information you have found yourself, to be confident the message is real.
PROTECT – Act quickly if something feels wrong. Contact your bank immediately if you lose money. Report scams to Scamwatch