How to spot and avoid the side hustle scam

Fake job adverts shared via social media or WhatsApp are attempting to lure in job seekers looking for extra income.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Brits seeking to earn a bit of extra money this year be warned: a new scam is targeting side hustlers using bogus job adverts.

The con has recently gained attention in Australia and is conducted over messaging apps. Fraudsters contact individuals to offer them a remote job, which then turns out to be fake.

Employment scams have been on the rise in recent years, driven by the growth of the gig economy and non-traditional work arrangements. We highlight the red flags to watch out for.

How does the side hustle scam work?

This latest business scam sees individuals pose as recruitment agents or business owners hiring for open positions for side gigs such as a job to ‘boost’ product ratings or reviews on a website.

By accessing CVs previously posted on job boards, these bad actors then leverage messaging applications like WhatsApp, social media, or email to schedule interviews.

If you are contacted by this method, you will likely be asked to share sensitive personal information or even send application fees to your ‘interviewer’.

In the most egregious cases, applicants might be asked for bank account details under the guise of setting up salary payments, allowing them to pilfer funds from victims’ accounts.

How do I spot a side hustle scam?

Side hustles have grown in popularity in recent years, as more of us seek out ways to boost our income during the cost of living crisis. In some cases, they can even earn you over the living wage.

However, with new platforms and business models emerging regularly, discerning between real and fake job postings has become more difficult.

JobsAware is an online service that provides free help and advice to UK workers who have fallen for jobs fraud or experienced unfair working practices.

The organisation says it has noted an increase in fake job offers being made via messaging apps. To reduce your risk of being swindled, check:

  • Did you apply for the job? If you have received an email or text message for a job you did not apply for, do not click on any links. They could be phishing scams
  • Are the salary and perks too good to be true? Scam ads are designed to entice you in with a huge pay package, plus sought-after perks like flexible working
  • Do they want money? No professional agency would request money from you to start a job, or ask for your bank details
  • Are they keen to avoid paperwork? Fraudsters will be eager to avoid any recorded contact as it could make it easier for you to contact the police
  • Are they who they say they are? Often, fraudsters will use a recognisable brand name to manipulate you into thinking they are a reputable source

If you do fall for an employment scam, JobsAware advises you to contact your bank immediately to stop any unauthorised transactions immediately.

Stop all communication with the ‘agency’ and report the scam to JobsAware. If you know it, contact the site where your CV information was stolen from to let them know that scammers have been stealing personal data.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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