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A boy is using tablet; image used for HSBC Hong Kong open banking.

How to stay safe from job scams

Fresh out of school and raring to enter the workforce? Or are you an eager beaver looking for the next best opportunity or a better paying job? It might be tempting to lap up job ads that promise a huge pay raise, amazing perks and short hours, but if a career opportunity sounds too good to be true, chances are, it probably is.

Let's say one day you log on to social media and a job ad pops up:

Make money quick and easy! We're hiring people to assist in making money transfers. No experience or education required. All you have to do is send us a copy of your HKID card and proof of income to apply. Limited openings, better call us now!

You think to yourself: the "make money quick and easy" bit sounds a bit too good to be true, but it's so exclusive that they're hiring just a few people, so any hesitation would mean missing out on a golden opportunity. Plus, it doesn't hurt to call and ask for details, right? So you make the fateful call.

"This is an easy job. We just need to borrow your bank account for the money transfers. How it works is we'll deposit some money to your account, and once you've wired the money to our account overseas, you'll earn a commission. Easy, huh? All we need is a copy of your HKID card, proof of your income and some cash upfront to make sure you won't run away once you've received our money for the transfers. It's just for our precaution."

You think to yourself, "They are transferring their money into my account, so of course they'll need my personal details and a cash deposit to make sure. Sounds fair."

So you take a picture of your HKID card and your payslip, and use your mobile payment app to transfer the money to your 'future boss', in the hopes of kick-starting this exciting endeavour that will bring in extra money for you without you even trying too hard. It's pretty much effortless!

Wait just a second - Does it sound too perfect?

Slow down and think – have you ever wondered why your 'new boss' needs to borrow your bank account for transfers? Why does the company need you to give them detailed copies of your payslip, proof of address and HKID card at such an initial stage of a job opportunity? And why do you have to pay them before you start work? The truth is: you thought you found the perfect job, but it was nothing more than an elaborate scam.

Based on our survey1, over 80% of Hongkongers have been the target of fraud. 26% of them have encountered digital payment fraud, making it the most common type of fraud occurring in the city, which also include romance and job scams, identity theft, official impersonations, and bogus calls. Out of the 26%, half actually fell for the scam and wound up losing money. On average, job seekers were tricked into giving up HKD2,500, the second highest amount of money conned out of all 6 types of scams.

"They can't scam me if I don't pay them a single penny." Unfortunately, this isn't true. Giving out your personal information already amplifies your chance of losing money. Fraudsters only need your online banking credentials, a recent headshot, one-time-passwords (OTPs), your date of birth and HKID number to complete a transaction or make a transfer in your name. 

In fact, all that's needed to get a loan from a bank is a copy of your HKID card, payslip and proof of your home address. A scammer can easily apply to borrow money and leave you responsible for their debt.

Our survey also reveals that 60% of the people in Generation Z (individuals aged 18-24 years old) are more willing to share important personal information with potential employers, making them more vulnerable to digital payment scams and job fraud. In fact, 30% of them even went on to disclose their e-wallet info, rendering themselves completely defenseless against scammers.

Tips to help you stay protected from job scams

Even if you're digitally savvy, you shouldn't underestimate the damage fake online job offers could cause. Follow these tips to keep your personal data protected against bogus career scams

  • Don't give out too much information in job applications:

    Details you shouldn't provide right at the beginning of a job application include proof of your home address and copies of your HKID card. These details could be asked for later during a background check by a legitimate company, but if you're asked to provide them at the start, that's a huge red flag to be aware of

  • Don't reveal sensitive details or information:

    Definitely don't be giving away information such as your online banking credentials and one-time passwords (OTPs).

  • Check if the job opening is authentic:

    Google the phone number the company listed on the job ad and make sure you call it to see if it's linked to a reliable organisation.

  • Do a thorough check on the people you're speaking with:

    Even if you do reach someone on the phone and they appear to speak to you with legitimate information about the company, be sure to probe more to verify as fraudsters could very well be manning a bogus number to make their scam more convincing. For instance, check to see if they have LinkedIn profiles with display pictures on them, and also see if their past work experience squares with the title they claim to currently hold

  • Do your own research on the company:

    Look for the firm's background information, its scale of operation and its address

  • Don't pay to work:

    When applying for jobs, don't pay any fees upfront to the company or related parties

Remember, there's nothing wrong with being eager to find a new job or get a higher salary, but be aware that this may make you more vulnerable to job scams. To find out more about the biggest cybersecurity threats other age groups face so you can empower the people you care about to protect themselves, here are some articles that are a great place to start:

If you think you've already experienced a scam, don't wait any longer and report it to us immediately.

1 Conducted in August and September 2020, the HSBC survey covers a sample size of 800 respondents aged 18-55 years old, which is representative of the Hong Kong population in terms of age and gender based on Hong Kong census data.