“I think I have been scammed!” Those are words no career centre wishes to hear from a student. A feeling of dread looms as you hear the details of how they applied for a job on a job board, either on or off campus. The position sounded amazing, with great pay and the employer was in touch regularly. Given this budding relationship and a need for income, the student eagerly applied. The employer explained they would send a cheque, then asked for it to be deposited in the student’s personal bank account, instructed the student to keep the money owed for hours worked and to send the rest to another location. They did as asked. In a matter of days, it became apparent the cheque was fraudulent and the bank wanted the money back.
In discussions with career centre directors, it is clear no university or college is immune to such postings. Just this past fall, a Memorial University student fell victim to a fraudulent employment ad and lost $5,000. An investigation found the fraudulent job had been posted at numerous campuses from coast to coast.
Despite rigorous vetting processes, a rare posting may get through, as scammers become more sophisticated and devious. Often, the “employer” appears to be a familiar, legitimate company whose identity has been used to create a fictitious position. Everything may appear legit, but just a subtle difference between a proper email address and the scam address can prove very costly for a student.
“Despite rigorous vetting processes, a rare posting may get through, as scammers become more sophisticated and devious.”
The increase in these postings requires ongoing and increasing vigilance from career centre staff, as well as more education for students on what to watch out for. Many career centres, including McGill University, Wilfrid Laurier University and Memorial University have clear messaging on their websites on what to look out for and ways to protect yourself. Western University undertook a Safe Job Searching Campaign in print and online, which it further promoted at various career fairs and events. Career centres can also work with other offices on campus to ensure this information is clearly communicated. For example, at Memorial University, the Internationalization Office now includes information on protecting yourself from job scams in all orientation sessions for new international students.
So, what can post-secondary career centres to do reduce the risk of this happening to students on your campus?
Career centres should take every opportunity to share information on how students can protect themselves against job scams. This can be done by embedding a slide into current presentations, sharing the information at booths and events, ensuring the information is prominent and easily accessible on the career centre website and using social media to spread the message.
Partner with other student-facing offices
There are numerous offices across campus that are in regular contact with students and willing to share information or partner with the career centre to do so. Student residences, internationalization offices, accessibility offices and many more all want to ensure students have the information and support to flourish during their time on campus and beyond.
Review internal processes
Take the time to review your internal job posting processes. What is your current vetting process? Do you have this documented? Who and how many are involved in the vetting? These are just a few questions all career centres should answer to ensure a thorough vetting process is in place.
Increased communication and sharing of fraudulent postings among career centres should be a priority. When a fraudulent job posting is received, it is highly likely the same one has been sent to numerous post-secondary institutions. Flagging the suspicious employer and sharing with other career centres increases the probability of it not getting posted and prevents future victims. While such networks exist, specifically in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, a national networked database would ensure such information reaches all career centres across the country.
Who doesn’t love to hear stories about students and graduates finding employment and developing their skills and network? Through thorough processes, education, and communication, campus career centres will continue to be a trusted connector for students, employers and exceptional employment opportunities.
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