Bulwark Intelligence

EMPLOYMENT SCAMS IN NIGERIA AND THE NEED FOR BACKGROUND CHECKS

One very common security threat in Nigeria although under-reported, is employment scams. This is an online criminal activity where scammers defraud unsuspecting job seekers of their money while promising to offer them jobs in renowned companies. These scams prey on the vulnerability and desperation of individuals seeking gainful employment in a country where job opportunities are often scarce and competition is fierce. When a company’s name is linked to employment scams, it loses trust and credibility with future employees, customers, and business partners. Amidst the growing concern over these scams, the necessity for public awareness and stringent background checks emerges as crucial safeguards against such fraudulent activities.

Trends, Economic Context and Job Market in Nigeria

In 2023, reports of employment scams continued to rank as the second most perilous type of scam worldwide, with investment scams being number one. These reports surged by 54.2% compared to the previous year. The median financial loss associated with employment scams stood at $1,995, notably exceeding the overall median loss of $100 reported across all types of scams. Concurrently, employment scams emerged as the leading concern for individuals aged between 18 and 35, particularly those embarking on their initial job searches or in the early stages of their professional journeys. Notably, this demographic segment accounts for approximately 60% of Africa’s population.

According to the Nigeria Labour Force Survey Q3 2023 report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria witnessed a significant increase in its unemployment rate, rising from 4.2% in Q2 2023 to 5.0% in Q3 2023. The NBS also noted a decline in the labour force participation rate among the working-age population, dropping to 79.5% in Q3 2023, down from 80.4% in Q2 2023. In Nigeria, where the unemployment rate and economic hardship remain a pressing issue, job seekers often navigate a landscape fraught with pitfalls. The promise of a lucrative job with a reputable company can blind individuals to the red flags of potential scams.

Scammers capitalize on this desperation by posing as representatives of well-known organizations or recruitment agencies, offering enticing job opportunities in exchange for upfront payments or personal information. In April 2023, a former Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System desk officer at the Federal Character Commission, Haruna Kolo, admitted to collecting money from job seekers in exchange for employment. He also admitted to having received over N75m from desperate job seekers on the instructions of the Chairman of the FCC. The Nigerian Army (NA) also expressed dismay over the alarming rate of the spread of fake online recruitment information, particularly regarding the Nigerian Army Direct Short Service (DSS) Recruitment Portal for the year 2023.

Modus Operandi of Scammers

The modus operandi of these scammers varies, ranging from fake job postings on legitimate websites to sophisticated phishing emails targeting unsuspecting candidates. They often employ persuasive tactics, such as offering high salaries or promising quick employment, to lure victims into their trap. Once the victim takes the bait and provides the requested payment or information, the scammer disappears, leaving the individual defrauded and disheartened. Despite the prevalence of employment scams, they remain significantly under-reported in Nigeria.

Another uncommon mode of practice is the use of these fake job adverts to lure victims, kidnap them, and subsequently request ransom payments from family members. In the second quarter of 2021, a 26-year-old female graduate of the University of Uyo, Iniubong Umoren responded to a job vacancy she found online and was later kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Her body was later exhumed in a shallow grave in the suspected killer’s family compound, according to a statement by the state police command.

It is also worth noting that many victims feel embarrassed or ashamed to come forward, fearing further exploitation or social stigma. Moreover, the lack of effective mechanisms for reporting and tracking such incidents exacerbates the problem, allowing scammers to operate with impunity and perpetuate their fraudulent schemes. It should be noted that not only job seekers are targeted by these employment scams, but renowned companies are also targeted sometimes when these scammers pose as bigger companies seeking partnerships.

Mitigating Employment Scams

To combat the scourge of employment scams, there is an urgent need to raise awareness about the prevalence of employment scams and educate the public about red flags. Collaborative efforts involving government agencies, law enforcement, industry associations, and the media are essential to combatting this multifaceted problem effectively. By fostering a collective understanding of the risks associated with job hunting in Nigeria, individuals can arm themselves with the knowledge and tools necessary to protect against exploitation and deception.

For employers, the spate of employment scams also highlights the need for proactive measures, chief among them being the implementation of comprehensive background checks for potential and existing staff. Background checks entail verifying the credentials, qualifications, and employment history of job applicants to ensure their legitimacy and integrity. By conducting thorough background checks, employers can mitigate the risk of falling victim to fraudulent schemes and protect their organizations from reputational damage.

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