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Behind the global scam worth an estimated €100m targeting WhatsApp users with fake job offers

"Hi, I’m Amelia from Adecco Ltd. Would you be interested in flexible roles, may I share more details?"

This is a text Marc Bonvin, a macro analyst based in London, received on WhatsApp on December 20, 2022. He was looking to change jobs and the text piqued his interest, so he asked for more information.

"When the person replied, I knew this was a scam," said Bonvin. "Amelia" was offering him "big projects" and a generous salary paid through an encrypted wallet. 

In October, he got a second text, again offering him job prospects.

Bonvin is one of thousands of people being targetted on WhatsApp by a scam that has already squeezed an estimated €100 million out from thousands of victims all over the globe, according to AI cybersecurity firm CloudSEK.

Some of the world's largest recruitment firms, such as Reed and Hays, have all been impersonated in this phishing scam.

"Please be aware that NO Adecco representative will ever request payment of any kind from a candidate," said Adecco, the company impersonated in the message Bonvin received.

According to Keith Rosser, who is both a group director at Reed and co-director and chair of JobsAware, a non-profit looking out for the safety of the UK labour market, this scam began in November 2022. It became "huge" in the UK, he says, from March 2023.

"We’re receiving dozens of reports a day, specifically about WhatsApp-based scams copying the names of legitimate recruitment firms, both job boards and recruitment agencies," Rosser told Euronews Next.

JobsAware receives about 50 such complaints a day, and they believe only 5 per cent of victims reach out to them, bringing the approximate number of people getting these texts in the UK to 1,000 per day.

The UK's communications regulator OFCOM recently found that nearly one in three Britons had encountered fake employment ads, and Rosser believes most of them were targeted by this specific WhatsApp scam.

Rosser's hope is that the UK's soon-to-be-approved Online Safety Bill and JobsAware’s plans for a certification scheme will help to lower the number of job scams, but the recruitment expert is pessimistic.

"Seeing how many people talk about this, my gut feeling is this is massive