Combating Modern Slavery: Disrupting Job Scams For A Safer Workforce

Combating Modern Slavery: Disrupting Job Scams For A Safer Workforce

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By Scott Stiles

In recent years, there’s been a global increase in online scamming activity. Bad actors will use any channel to exploit unsuspecting people including social media, messaging apps, and even job boards. The schemes range from crypto schemes, to love scams, and even employment scams. There have even been reports of these resulting in human trafficking situations.

To effectively combat these emerging forms of modern slavery, it is crucial to create awareness of bad actors while using our platforms to disrupt scamming operations when possible. By doing so, we can protect jobseekers and create a safer employment market.

A history of protecting our jobseekers

One of the ways we stop bad actors before they even get the chance to interact with jobseekers on our platform is through onboarding checks. For years, we have dedicated teams whose role is to verify the legitimacy of the job ads and the company backgrounds for employers who post ads on our platform directly. Before a new employer can access jobseekers’ profiles on our JobStreet platform, their accounts need to be verified by a human operator. This is a robust process that requires evidence from employers in the form of legal documentation, before undergoing reputation checks. Case in point, we rejected about 2.5 per cent of employers across APAC in the second half of 2022 because we were unable to verify their legitimacy, or they were deemed too risky for our platform.

We also have in place systems that block and flag job ads that contain blacklisted terms and phrases, such as ads that contain discriminatory keywords or request payment from jobseekers. Between July and December 2022, we automatically scanned all 3.7 million job ads on our platform across APAC, which resulted in our team manually reviewing 10 per cent of those ads, and subsequently either educate employers on why their ads were flagged, or block those that appear to be questionable.

Responding to new challenges

Over the last year there has been increasing awareness of ‘pig butchering’ scams, a form of long-term scam that involves the perpetrator building a relationship with a victim before convincing them to make a fraudulent investment. When syndicates experience a shortage of scammers who are willing to work for them, they resort to methods similar to modern day slavery. The primary modus operandi appears to be recruiting people through social media and messaging apps, forcing them to conduct scams and internet fraud against their will.

However, last year JobStreet became aware of a potential case on our platform. We acted swiftly, submitting police reports and enacting significant new policies. We blocked overseas job ads to countries deemed high risk for human trafficking. It was a business decision that required little debate because we understood that no amount of revenue was worth risking jobseekers’ safety on our platform.

As technology advances, perpetrators will continue try to adapt. We are investing in and expanding the use of AI and machine learning to enhance our fraud detection and prevention capabilities. Early experiments have shown promise. During one experiment, the use of AI was able to improve the efficiency and detection of fraudulent ads when compared to manual processes.

Aside from using technology to stay ahead of scammers, we are also continuing to monitor emerging trends for scams involving deceptive recruitment in Southeast Asia, so that we could take the necessary steps to safeguard our jobseeker community quicker.

Driving awareness for safe job hunting

We are aware that even with multiple measures implemented, it is still possible for some bad actors to slip through, especially if the red flags only appear after the recruitment process has been taken outside the platform. For example, some ads and employers appear to be legitimate, but only start showing questionable intent during the candidate interview stage.

In such instances, it becomes vital that our jobseeker community reports any evidence of a questionable employer by completing the “Report this job ad” form on our platform. We hope to see broader awareness so jobseekers can identify and report potential scams. Some indicators of a scam may include vague or changing job requirements, requesting any form of onboarding or training payment from jobseekers, salary that is too good to be true, and companies with limited or no online presence.

For overseas job opportunities, it is important for jobseekers to note that it is illegal to travel to a foreign country under a visitor’s visa if the intention is to work. Hence, they need to ensure that they have the necessary work permit before boarding the flight. These details should be cross-referenced with the original job ad. Local embassies can also verify the legitimacy of a company.

Making job scams unprofitable

The fight against employment scams is an ongoing one. It will continue if it is profitable for bad actors. However, if we all continue to do our part, through building awareness and taking action, we can make these forms of exploitation economically unviable for scammers.

With these measures in place on our platform and greater awareness created among jobseekers, we aim to disrupt scammers’ modus operandi, limiting their reach and thus reducing their potential profits. Ultimately, we will strive to ensure our platform remains a safe space for jobseekers to discover employment opportunities with trust and peace of mind.


Scott Stiles is Head of Fair Hiring, Asia, at SEEK, a diverse group of companies made up of a strong portfolio of online employment, educational, commercial, and volunteer businesses.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)

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